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Cable and Fox tug at the Coalition’s centre

11 March 2013

The leaders of both coalition parties are seeing ministerial colleagues and backbenchers trying to push them further way from the centre at present. Nick Clegg has Vince Cable continuing to push for what Ed Miliband might call ‘good borrowing’, telling the Today programme that he’d borrow to improve the economy, rather than to keep an inefficient economic model going. He said:

‘There’s borrowing for different reasons, and this was the point I was trying to make last week, that you can borrow simply to plug the hole in the deficit… The metaphor I’ve used which helps to explain it – there’s a difference between increasing your credit card in order to keep a gas-guzzling car on the road, and taking out a loan in order to get a more fuel-efficient car, and the latter is a more sensible form of borrowing. And that’s what, when people talk about capital investment, that’s what we mean. And those companies would make that distinction, and that’s a sort of healthy form of borrowing, providing you get good projects.’

Liam Fox, meanwhile, seems very excited about the speech he is giving this morning to the Institute of Economic Affairs, tweeting a photo of himself doing the final run-through. Funnily enough, he’s making similar attacks on the concept of ringfencing as Cable, although some of his other ideas might be closer to what the Business Secretary dubbed ‘some kind of ideological jihad against public spending and public services’.This is not Fox’s first intervention on the economy, and it won’t be his last, either. But it is a significant piece of positioning from a man who has worked extremely hard on relations with other MPs on the right of the party.

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By speaking before the Budget means that if Osborne delivers a statement that sets hares of disagreement and U-turn running around Westminster rather than a rabbit that keeps everyone happy, Fox can become a rallying figure for discontented Tory MPs. Remember the Budget is the next in the five key tests set by backbenchers – and the government has already failed the first two.

Those sitting in the Chamber will see the first signs of whether the Budget has worked as backbenchers watch the Chancellor deliver it. Last year there were certain announcements – the ‘granny tax’ being one of them – that MPs immediately spotted as being troublesome, and they started leaning towards one another to mutter about it. Too much of that quiet backbench muttering will suggest the Chancellor hasn’t kept things as steady as he’d hoped. All that those who don’t dream of an exciting coup this side of 2015 want is a ‘steady as she goes’ Budget with some gestures on the cost of living.

But the difference between these two groupings on either side of the leadership is that Clegg, as James explained in his Mail on Sunday column, is feeling secure against an attack from Vince. The Lib Dem conference this weekend showed that the biggest source of discontent comes from party activists, and the Liberal Democrats are becoming more like a party in government as they are starting to worry less about the long-term consequences of revolts from their members. But Cameron cannot feel quite so secure, given the febrile mood in his parliamentary party, and the number of senior figures setting themselves up as potential rallying points for when things get really rough.

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Show comments
  • HookesLaw

    ‘ the Liberal Democrats are becoming more like a party in government’ – ?? you obviously had magic mushrooms for breakfast.

  • anyfool

    Fox is a disgraced former minister who blew his chance.
    Cable is an old man in a pointless party that sacked an old man for being old.
    What in reality is this post about.

    • Span Ows

      I think the post is about Fox (doesn’t matter who really) is saying what Cameron should be saying and suggesting what Osborne should be doing. I for one am happy that at least he is saying it AND that the media are actually reporting it!

      • Vrai Telemachus

        A dissembing criminal should not be given airtime
        Do we yet understand the infiltration of our Military secrets by his friends
        What was the true role of such as Werritty

  • White Wednesday

    Liam Fox and David Davis keep turning up at times like this. Davis has had his chances (and blown them) and Fox is just far too wooden to be leader.

    The Right needs to look to “Charming Conservatism” embodied by the likes Gove, Boris and Hannan – great communicators with a deftness of touch that eludes Fox, Davis and – dare I say it – Theresa May.

    • Vrai Telemachus

      Before we get hung up on listening to this clown Fox remember why he is doing this:-

      “Defence Secretary Liam Fox has
      resigned after a week of pressure over his working relationship with friend and
      self-styled adviser Adam Werritty.

      Mr Fox was being investigated amid claims he broke the ministerial code.

      In a letter to David Cameron, Mr Fox said he had “mistakenly allowed”
      personal and professional responsibilities to be “blurred”.”

  • Tom Tom

    “trying to push them further way from the centre at present.” Isabel you must be some kind of loon to think this government is anywhere hear “the centre” of public sentiment. You must live in a Skinner Box. This Government is loopy Left on social policy and rabid Right on economic policy buying off the media like yourself with lunatic social policy and rewarding the Banker Class with rabid Right subsidy to Wealth and Penury to Poor. It is a bankrupt party that should be liquidated and replaced by new parties which do NOT campaign in London. It is time for the Maoist approach of using the country to encircle the metropolis and isolate the Media Class

  • telemachus

    Leave Isabel alone for goodness sake. There are few enough left wing writers in the right wing press like the spectator. She is entitled to describe things through the prism of her own socialist point of view, just as you are entitled to describe things through your reactionary prism.

    • Colonel Mustard

      Why should there be left wing writers in a right wing press? The left wing press to right wing writers is as Saudi Arabia to Christian churches. Comment is far from free! The media in this country is overwhelmingly left wing, with the flagship BBC virtually a broadcasting arm of the Labour party, more so since Common Purpose began its little Leninist game of building a mass party by infiltrating and controlling “many other groups of workers at differing levels of class consciousness”. That has placed many cuckoos in the right wing nest, deliberately or otherwise, all beavering away to create Blair’s Labour party as “political wing of the British people as a whole” and Miliband’s one nation, one national socialist party, authoritarian state.

      And whilst ‘socialist’ tells us all we need to know about the dogma of the left because the creed is so rigidly coded and predictable, ‘reactionary’ does not begin to describe the diversity and complexity of conservative thought other than in pejorative terms.

    • Colonel Mustard

      I don’t know for sure whether you are spoof telemachus or you have regained your identity. But I will tell you this. The socialist values you espouse here in such uncompromising terms are dangerous. The Labour party might think it a good idea to focus on undermining all dissent and opposition to its utopian dogma rather than what is best for the country as a whole delivered from a moderate, truly central position. But the destruction of plurality and diversity in the political arena will inevitably lead to the recreation of those regimes remembered only for the human misery they inflicted.

      All the Tom Watson and McBride wannabes feverishly seeking to control the blogosphere on behalf of Labour should remember this. That when you stifle and disempower dissent and alternative opinion, however “unacceptable” it might be, you only intensify resentment and insurgency. The power might carry you, even for decades, but the ultimate fall will be painful. The human experience is a changing sea not a planned journey to a fixed destiny.

      • telemachus

        Colonel Mustard, all politics is dangerous. There is a cost associated with implementing a ‘social democratic’ future. We are willing to face and bear that cost. The reason that the forces of reaction are in retreat is that you are not willing to face or bear the cost of wrenching power from our hands. And so we will continue to place the promoters of progressive thinking into every authority and we will bring about the future that has been attempted in the past but not been possible to achieve. And we will achieve it this time and in this place because there is no resistance, it has all been overcome without any bloodshed, and the peaceful socialist revolution which has taken place without resistance will embed itself here for a thousand years.

        We do not even need to implement any great apparatus of control. You censor and silence yourselves. The revolution is almost complete.

        • Colonel Mustard

          Thank you for the confirmation of which telemachus you are.

          • Andy

            One can see Fascism on the march yet again.

            • Span Ows

              Clear as day: the people won’t listen to us telling them what’s best for them so we will make them listen, whatever the cost; it’s for their own good.

            • Chris Morriss

              Sadly, it’s been on the march since Tony Blair came to power in 1997.

          • Vrai Telemachus

            I think you may be deluded
            Sadly the revisionists diverted the path in 1953 and the apparatus to bring it about in 1961

            • Vrai Telemachus

              Further, spoof telemachus cloned progressively red rose tele, thuc and reasonable tele
              He, who must be a Speccy insider, will I think have difficulty with vrai

    • Vrai Telemachus

      My reading of Isabel is that she is certainly to the right of Ken Clarke who is approaching reasonable

  • Thatcherite Lee

    Another Isabel article full of lies. You may have blocked me from twitter but Isabel that won’t stop me from exposing your sensationalism and lies.

    • Archimedes

      It’s a conspiracy, Lee, this one goes right to the top, even the Pentagon is involved – they’re all trying to shut you up.

      • HookesLaw

        Are the tea party funding Wilhelm?

        • Span Ows

          Mossad did it.

        • Tom Tom

          No. The Mad Hatter is Osborne but you are inviteed as always

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