Peter Hoskin

Cable takes his wind-up act to the stage

Cable takes his wind-up act to the stage
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A luminous streak of self-aggrandisement in Vince Cable's speech to the CBI this afternoon, which began thus:

"I should acknowledge that that the CBI has been remarkably far sighted; Digby Jones first invited me to speak to you eight years ago, the first Lib Dem asked to do so. I recall some members wondering 'Vince Who?'"

And continued, as Paul Waugh notes in a typically insightful post, with a passage that will wind up the Business Secretary's detractors in the Tory party:

"Just a few years ago, most people in politics, not only Gordon Brown, thought the growth problem had been solved. The only dispute was between those who shared Gordon Brown’s view that the British economy was healthier than at any time since the Hanoverians and those who thought we had to go back to the Romans. I don’t mean to be mischievous when I point out that even my Conservative Coalition colleagues were busy developing policies about “sharing the proceeds of growth”; the assumption – widely shared – being that strong growth was bound to continue. Those of us who were worrying publicly about the unsustainable build-up of household debt, the housing bubble and the lending practices of banks were regarded as eccentrics or party poopers.

Now, instead of sharing the proceeds, we need to think hard about how to grow out of a crisis."

Cable will no doubt claim that he had his tongue firmly in his cheek. Which is fair enough – because there is precious little wisdom in the passage above. Not only does it focus attention on the Business Secretary as a disruptive force within the coalition, but it will also distract from the wider points he made in his speech (including some effective lines about how short-termism isn't in the banks' interests, let alone the country's). In the end, a little less swagger might pay dividends.