Peter Hoskin

Cable’s aspirations

Cable's aspirations
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"Aspiration" tends to be a convenient word for politicians, in the sense that any policy that they can't implement now can be glossed over as something they want to do in future. But, if Vince Cable's interview with the Times is anything to go by, it could become a troublesome word for the coalition.

Speaking about the Lib Dem's election promise to scrap university tuition fees, Cable says that:

“It is an aspiration, but we’re highly constrained financially and we have got to try to work out ways of doing it. I’m not Father Christmas.”

But nowhere does the coalition agreement say that scrapping tuition fees is an "aspiration". Instead, its major observation on the matter is that "We will await Lord Browne’s final report into higher education funding," and that Lib Dem MPs might be able to abstain from any vote on Lord Browne's proposals. And, unless I'm mistaken, I don't think any other coalition minister has dropped the a-word either. So is Cable formulating policy apart from his peers? It certainly wouldn't be the first time.

One alternative is that Cable is doing a Simon Hughes, and speaking on behalf of the Lib Dems rather than the coalition government. But given that he is the minister overseeing the universities brief, he should probably be careful about that kind of thing – otherwise, it's going to start getting messy.