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Lib Dem conference: Vince Cable attacks the “headbangers”

24 September 2012

Never a man to avoid confrontation, Vince Cable decided to tackle gossip about his conversations with Labour head on when he appeared on stage at the Lib Dem conference this lunchtime. He has ‘excellent communications with politicians across the spectrum’, he joked, then reached into his pocket for his phone, joking that he had a message from Ed.

He followed the same pattern as Tim Farron in criticising Labour’s record in government, just to make clear that the Lib Dems are fervently independent, rather than hankering after partnership with one party or another. But it was interesting that the majority of mentions for other parties in the Business Secretary’s speech were limited to criticism of Conservative ‘head bangers’. He said:

‘We have seen off the head bangers who want a hire-and-fire culture and seem to find sacking people an aphrodisiac: totally irrelevant in a country with flexible labour markets which have created over a million private sector jobs in the last two years. Instead, we have concentrated on practical tribunal reform and supported progressive firms who want worker participation and shared ownership.’

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He mocked the Tory-led GCSE reforms, and said his plan for a mansion tax ‘horrifies the Tory backwoodsmen, but it is popular and right’. Coming right after a motion endorsing Plan A, Vince added his own piece:

‘Actually it is not a matter of Plan A versus Plan B or Plan C or even Plan V. Plan A+ is OK by me or plan A++ if you prefer. When we came into government we had to balance competing risks: of aggravating the economic downturn through excessive cuts versus the risk of losing the confidence of lenders. I believe we struck the right balance and adopted a deficit reduction plan. I make no apology for my continued support for that fiscal discipline.’

Cable is one of the only members of the cabinet who likes to refer to Plan A+. It’s a mark of his different attitude to coalition that David Hall-Matthews described in his interview with me. And his speech made the Liberal Democrat influence over those plus signs clear, arguing that ‘the need is for a demand stimulus’.

This was another muted performance, though. I remember Cable’s 2010 autumn conference speech really whipping delegates up into a frenzy, which this didn’t. It’s notable that the speeches from the two men whose names are most frequently mentioned in connection with a leadership bid — Cable and Farron — have both toned their rhetoric and energy down in their speeches this season.

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Show comments
  • michael

    Sorry, my last comment was a response to David Lindsay’s “We already own banks. Why can’t…

  • michael

    -Because that’s not Vince’s game… He wants to ‘hoover’ up all the banks good debt (best goodwill assets / customers) no doubt making sure, hand on purse strings, that as the tax burdens continue to increase these proven wealth creators don’t look to sunnier spots, whilst once again encouraging the banks to use the corresponding remittance of Q-eased funni munni to take on MORE RISK ergo toxicity. NOW…here’s the really clever bit …the banks having parted company , enriching HMG, with all their potentially skin saving ‘good’ assets are more than likely going to return seeking guarantees, for these riskier new lends, from HMG (Vince). He will no doubt insist on the same ‘taxed to the hilt’ surety to take on liability.
    So Vince now not only controls the purse strings of the good old assets but indirectly the purse strings of the newer riskier ones too…effectively… Nationalised (political) commercial banking all nice and neatly packaged for handover — to the ECB may be ?
    —–And yet more f*****g supply side regulatory burden in pursuit of growth.

    • michael

      And there’s more : £Ibn worth of hoovered up assets can be leveraged for
      £10 bn worth of borrowing without spooking the markets .

      So, that’s 10 bn worth of GO proposed cuts that they will oppose + the leveraged 10bn.

      Apply a goodly dollop of spin:

      10 bn they wont cut + the leveraged 10 bn + 10 bn that GO will have cut and wham bam, a £30 bn cash handout differential between themselves and the Tories.

  • David Lindsay

    We already own banks. Why can’t one or more of those be the Business
    Bank? Or even, if there must be such a thing, the Green Bank? In the
    former case, why are they not all like that already? Who’s in charge

  • David Lindsay

    We already own banks. Why can’t one or more of those be the Business Bank? Or even, if there must be such a thing, the Green Bank? In the former case, why are they not all like that already? Who’s in charge here?

  • 2trueblue

    And these people are part of our current government? Where did the idea that you can call people who disagree with you ‘head bangers’? This is playground language and rather pathetic. Grow up Cable and do your job. We have a real problem with the lack of good communicators, people with ideas and the ability to engage in real dialogue. Perhaps Cable should upgrade his skills. Alexander. Oakeshott. et al all use the phrase. Come on chaps, up grade and use that wonderful education you all benefited from at some point of your life.

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