Vince Cable, it seems, has notched his Tory-baiting down from 11 to about 8. Last weekend, in the bitter wake of the local elections, the Business Secretary labelled his coalition partners as “ruthless, calculating and thoroughly tribal”. Today, in an address to the Fabians, he would only argue that the Tories will benefit most from tribalism in politics — and it was an argument delivered soberly and without obvious malice. He even praised David Cameron (along with Tony Blair) as someone who has tried to suck the poisonous partisanship from Westminster’s bloodstream.
Sunder Katwala has quoted the speech extensively here, so I won’t dwell for too long on what was said. But one other snippet does stand out: Cable’s claim that Labour and the coalition have been fighting an “extraordinary ideological war around microscopic differences over spending cuts.” Downplaying the depth of the spending cuts is, of course, the new, official line to take. But hearing it from Cable, speaking to a Labour audience, it’s clear how this approach — of “we’re not that different, really, you and I” — could have unintended consequences.