Imagine for a second if Alistair Darling or George Osborne wrote a pamphlet about spending cuts which contained plans which were not yet party policy. The press would go into overdrive. Journalists would demand to know if Gordon Brown or David Cameron agreed with their numbers man. If there was no instant answer, splits stories would lead the news. The whole thing would be considered a disaster. But when Vince Cable does it, it is not a problem. Bagehot, The Economist’s respected political columnist, writes admiringly
of Cable’s pamphlet
for Reform before saying, “It isn't all Liberal Democratic policy yet, but much of it is likely to be.”
I think this latitude that Cable is given is one of the reasons he has become regarded as such an authority and a clear communicator, the media gives him space to think. But one can’t imagine Cable being given such an easy ride if he was in one of the two major parties.
One can argue that political debate in this country would be healthier if the media allowed Tory and Labour politicians to think aloud as well. But it is hard to disagree with what Alastair Campbell wrote in a perceptive post about Cable’s popularity, “his biggest advantages are that he is not in government, and he is not a Tory.”