There is a certain poetry to the leaking of Vince Cable’s
‘vision thing’ memo and the departure from Downing Street of Steve Hilton, the very man who is supposed to have been
providing the government’s vision all this time.
Cable’s message to David Cameron and Nick Clegg was nothing if not forthright: ‘There is still something important missing — a compelling vision of where the country is heading
beyond sorting out the fiscal mess, and a clear and confident message about how we will earn our living in the future.’ It is also difficult to argue with. Where is the industrial policy?
Where is the distinct message that we are pursuing a high-tech future, or re-booting manufacturing, or encouraging the creative industries? At times, this government seems so set against anything
that might look like a centralised five-year plan that it has decided not to have a plan at all.
The departure of Steve Hilton is genuinely strange. It’s very difficult to interpret this as anything other than a retreat from the front line. I’m sure the civil service can be very
frustrating, but why on earth why give them the satisfaction by leaving the field?
I am really not being sectarian about this. Maybe there is some ultra-sophisticated double-bluff going on here to keep the Cameroon project looking cuddly. But where are those Tories with the kind
of drive that makes lefties like me say ‘you may hate their policies but they at least have a fire in their belly’. You can’t really hate Andrew Lansley or Iain Duncan Smith or
Theresa May or Justine Greening. The nearest thing the left has to a hate figure within the Coalition is Michael Gove. And Nick Clegg of course, but that’s different.
You have to wonder how much the Cameroons really wanted this. What began as something of a game among a small group of bright young men (and they were all men) has ended up as a deadly serious.
This is not the time to walk off the job: most of us don’t have that luxury.
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