Alex Massie

Vince Cable - Clever Chap; Hopeless Politician

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The other thing to be borne in mind about the Liberal Democrats - apart, that is, from the fact that they betray proper liberalism every day - is that they're hopeless at politics. Vince Cable's proposals on freezing public sector pay, reforming pensions and increasing the personal allowance are actually all very sensible. Good policies in fact! Worth talking about!

So what does he do? Only ruin everything by proposing an absurd, back-of-a-napkin plan to tax large houses still further. (That the Lib Dems are, or used to be becauses, really, who can tell these days, in favour of replacing property taxes with a local income tax merely adds to the absurdity of the situation.) So, guess what gets the headlines? Surprisingly it's not the sensible ideas.

This is elementary.

Meanwhile, it seems that Chris Huhne has decided that it's probably not a great idea to call the Tories Nazis. His speech was originally going to contain a line arguing that William Hague is "a skinhead who has gone round the beer cellars of Europe and come up with the dregs".

That's been dropped but, according to Nick Clegg's chief-of-staff:

"Chris Huhne is making an important point about the other parties with whom the Conservatives have chosen to associate in the European Parliament. There was a line in an early draft, and I think he decided that the substance of that was important, not getting into a discussion about William Hague's hairstyle or his drinking habits."

One final thought: if there's a hung parliament the Liberal Democrats shouldn't do a deal with anyone. There's something to be said for minority government after all. Most bills only cause more trouble and passing bills only encourages politicians to pass more legislation.

Which in turn reminds me of one of my pet notions: you should have to repeal an existing (and applied) law each time you want to pass a new one. That would help concentrate minds. And, of course, permit a proper debate on which laws we really don't need.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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