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Vince Cable: Tory ‘ideologues’ waging ‘jihad’ against public spending

9 March 2013

Vince Cable managed to hit all the Lib Dem spots last night with his fringe speech at the Lib Dem spring conference. He didn’t just mention the words ‘land value tax’, which set many Lib Dem heads nodding away with approval, but also managed to say ‘there’s no such thing as a free lunch’ in Swahili, and accuse right-wing Conservatives of waging ‘jihad’ against public spending and public services. Here are three main points from his speech:

1. Cable said certain Tory ‘ideologues’ were waging ‘jihad’ against public spending.

It wasn’t clear whether the Business Secretary was attacking his Tory Cabinet colleagues or backbenchers like Liam Fox and David Ruffley when he said:

‘There is going to be pressure on public spending and I think what we have to make absolutely clear as a party that there is a difference between managing public spending in that context, we have to have financial wisdom, and the kind of thing that a lot of right-wing Conservatives are pushing for which is Tea Party, some kind of ideological jihad against public spending and public services.’

He criticised those who favour ‘so-called supply-side economics: a very ambiguous phrase’, and accused both Tories and Labour of refusing to talk about the ‘massive crisis of financial capitalism’, saying Labour reminded him of Basil Fawlty trying not to mention the Second World War to a group of German hotel guests.

2. He reiterated his resistance to cuts to his department in the 2015/16 spending review

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But what was more striking was that he did not make an impassioned defence of the welfare budget. We were waiting for it to happen, but it didn’t come. And in his Guardian interview today, the Business Secretary turns attention again onto pensioner perks such as the Winter Fuel Payment.

He opened his remarks with a joke about the other ministers opposing the cuts in the spending review:

‘I could have come here with some of the militants from the National Union of Ministers. You might well have had Comrade Pickles and Sister May, but I did reach an agreement with them that I would come and speak and they would stay on the picket line.’

And later in his speech he returned to the NUM and the spending review, saying it would be ‘utterly counterproductive’ to cut some of his areas of responsibility. ‘I don’t need lectures on the need to manage public finance carefully because we have to do that,’ he told the room. But he said Liberal Democrats wouldn’t allow certain spending cuts to happen.

3. Capital spending cuts had been a mistake, Cable argued

He repeated some of the ideas he examined in his New Statesman article, saying:

‘You’ve also had the massive cuts in capital expenditure by central government, it was launched by Mr Darling, who almost cut capital spending by half. We’ve retrieved some of that but by no means all of it. I think both Nick Clegg and I have gone out publicly and said that the slashing of public investment was a very, very bad policy mistake. And I think if I was looking at this in common-sense terms, I would say well look, you have underplayed resources in industry, you have great need.. and you have cheap capital, low interest rates in international capital markets, the government can borrow from them, why don’t we put those together and use some of that money in order to get ahead with housebuilding and infrastructure. And indeed that’s what I was writing about in that controversial article that broke into the news last week.’

Steve Webb is speaking later today on welfare, and Nick Clegg has a Q&A in the afternoon, too. It will be interesting to see what noises these two make about the 2015/16 spending review, and Vince’s borrowing plea.

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Show comments
  • derekemery

    … we have to have financial wisdom…
    if only

  • Burt

    I wish this idiot would crawl under a rock and die, what a waste of space he is!

    • davebush999

      Which one? They all sound like idiots on here.

  • Grrr8

    One of the great joys of both Vince and Ken Clarke is that they are at the ends of their careers. With their current jobs likely to be their last, they don’t need to worry about advancement or being beholden to others. Hence they get to speak the truth to power. DC would be wise to listen up. Particularly with the Ashcroft poll results.

  • Daniel Maris

    A couple of observations. Ask yourself why we need to build so many houses? Do we have millions of rat infested damp slums? No. We need to divert capital into housebuilding to build houses for newcomers and the children of recent migrants to this country. We also need to build them for the Russian and Chinese oligarchs who flock to London in thousands.

    Wouldn’t it be better if we got off the mass immigration treadmill, whereby we import East Europeans to build housing for more migrants and instead focussed on capital investment that will make people wealthier e.g. by using indigenous materials, increasing agricultural production, enabling us to manufacture goods at competitive prices or by producing cheap energy that helps people to reduce their energy bills.

    • Grrr8

      You really are a one-trick pony aren’t you?

      • Daniel Maris

        I’ve noticed you resort to abuse when unable to advance your cause with argument.

        Actually you are completely wrong since I am interested in many issues and comment on them here and elsewhere. But our housing crisis could not be more linked to immigration if you tried.

        • Colonel Mustard

          Don’t worry about it. The very mention of the ‘I’ word has him foaming in indignation and pawing his little iPad. Ignore the count.

        • Grrr8

          When the cap fits Danny boy ….

          But if you want an argument, may I recommend the attached link from this weekend’s FT, which articulates the many benefits of migrants, and particularly A8 migrants to the UK economy:

  • Jebediah

    Vince Cable is an economically illiterate disloyal duplicitous scumbag. The Tories should never had gone into coalition. They should have ruled as a minority and called another election.

    • Vitaly Klitschko

      An amusing perspective, considering that the Tories now have zero chance of re-election for at least a decade.

  • Smithersjones2013

    Is the old fool so senile or just generally deranged? Every year the government spends £120 billion more than it takes in. The economy is stagnant. The taxpayer is sick and tired of pandering to the delerious ramblings of debt addicted politicians like Cable whose lunacy has forced them to go into financial rehab.

    The country cannot afford these Champagne statists. Government has to balance its budget. We cannot keep borrowing! These debt junkies can no longer be given oxygen!

    • Vitaly Klitschko

      It’s difficult to know whether to laugh or cry in response. It is, of course, impossible for any government not to continue borrowing or ‘balance’ the budget – since the UK is in terminal decline. The only way out would be to somehow renegotiate the nation’s debt with her creditors. If anyone is in any doubt it is instructive to consider how many years the UK has actually been in SURPLUS. This means that the overall debt can only increase even with the fantasy of year-on-year surplus, unless interest payments are cancelled.

      How is it possible for an economy as distorted as the UK’s to be anything other than ‘stagnant’? The damage has been done. Multinational corporations will do nothing to help; in fact they will hinder recovery. With a workforce dependent upon benefits, the very idea of the ‘taxpayer’ is a misnomer!

      The first step to recovery has to be pressing criminal charges against the banks AND outlawing all bonuses.

  • andagain

    You’ve also had the massive cuts in capital expenditure by central government, it was launched by Mr Darling, who almost cut capital spending by half.

    So if cutting capital spending was a mistake – and it probably was – that was at least as much the fault of Labour as of the Coalition. Interesting.

    It is hard to be very surprised.

  • Colonel Mustard

    “…the kind of thing that a lot of right-wing Conservatives are pushing for which is Tea Party, some kind of ideological jihad against public spending and public services…”

    Oh, dear, Mr Cable, that was not a very sane choice of words. As if we don’t already get enough manipulation and devaluation of language from those who are engaged in the real and deadly war against Western civilisation (and I don’t mean militant Islam). You were better with Mr Bean and Brown which did not extend to hyperbole. Tea Party is an American phenomenon and relates to the US Constitution. We have no such protection here from statists now.

    And “right-wing Conservatives”? I can remember a time when to be Conservative was to be right-wing, before Blair’s grab for a one party state, before his fellow-travellers hauled the centre ground leftwards and before the left generally began pushing to delegitimise any political opinion they disagreed with by calling it “extreme” or “far”.

    • Reasonable Telemachus

      We all hope that Cable’s ideas hold sway
      His thoughts on Capital Investment need to be heard

      • Wessex Man

        Oh go away Reasonable Telemachus, you are even more boring in this mode than in your usual!

      • Colonel Mustard

        No, “we” don’t. And my comment was not about his “ideas” but about his intemperate language.

        • Reasonable Telemachus

          Vince tells it like it is
          We all will benefit from his wisdom
          He also has what Healey called Hinterland

    • Democritus

      The Tea Party movement tends to be anti-government, anti-spending,
      anti-Obama, pro-Constitution, anti-tax, nationalistic, anti-immigration
      and anti-compromise politics. They take their name from a small incident involving the British Parliament, the American colonies, tea and tax known as the Boston Tea Party of 1773, this led to the American Revolutionary war 1775. The rest, as they say, is history.

      • Colonel Mustard

        Oh, wow. I didn’t know all that.


  • alabenn

    What has this man actually said that anyone can make sense of, is the problem with you Ms Hardman or does he actually talk garbage.

    There is going to be pressure on public spending at the beginning and some kind of ideological jihad against public spending and public services at the end, with meaningless pearls of wisdom like “public spending in that context, we have to have financial wisdom”
    It is a political way of saying we are broke but it is everybody’s fault but mine, that anyone thinks this man should be chancellor or taken seriously by journalists is beyond parody.

    • Reasonable Telemachus

      Vince is quite literally the only member of the current Government that has credible economic ideas
      Listen and learn

      • Smithersjones2013

        Well your endorsement means everything…

      • Colonel Mustard

        Come on, spoof telemachus, he is at it again. Please do your thing and relieve us of this turbulent troll!

        • Radford_NG

          Oxymoron;or what?

    • 2trueblue

      I think Isobel is pitching for a job with the BBC, she is admirably qualified in not being able to decipher what is going on at all.
      I think that understanding Cable is indeed an art, but added to the media it is becoming impossible. He speaks in riddles to be thought of as clever.

    • Democritus

      It makes perfect sense to me. When the government came to power the first thing they did was cut Capital investment building projects on the basis that we couldn’t afford them. Osbourne has made a slight U turn by reinstating the school rebuilding project 2 years later (though on a much smaller scale) and announcing the building of a high speed rail link. Now if they cut Capital investment on the basis that “we can’t afford it” in 2010 when borrowing stood at $620bn, how can they afford it now that borrowing is over $1tn?

      The fact is the Government is borrowing more and more just to stand still. Capital investment on infrastructure boosts the economy by increasing employment, the tax take and GDP which will increase government income, decrease expenditure and lift us out of recession.

      Should the government borrow to improve the economy or should it continue to borrow to feed a flat lining economy?

      • Vitaly Klitschko

        You could try to tackle the problem at source – Britain’s creditors. Could the pension funds be persuaded to take a haircut? I never see this issue discussed, but it is clear where the power lies.

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