Fraser Nelson

Why Vince Cable is not too sexy for his party

Why Vince Cable is not too sexy for his party
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For all his celebrity, Vince Cable is not exactly an economic genius - as those who have read his book, The Storm,  will know all to well (Specator review here). But he is seldom tested on this point, as he encounters broadcasters whose line of questioning is normally "tell us, Sage of Twickenham, what is happening." For those who don't regard him as the new Oracle and have wanted  see him put through his paces, Andrew Neil - Cable's former student - gives his old master a grilling on the BBC News Channel. In the interview, Cable gets steadily more irritated (and rumbled) and admits to having flip-flopped.

The Cable phenomenon illustrates the gulf between economic and political reporting. As a business hack to went into politics, the contrast has always struck me. In business, you can pursue an aggressive line of questioning - but if spin comes in the form of a figure, it's treated as if it's just down from Mount Sinai. This is the gap that Brown exploited brilliantly, spinning and - on occasion - lying with figures but never being picked up on it. In fairness to him, he worked out very early on how to use figures as weapons.

Cable's skill is not so much the calibre of his anlysis, but his ability to understand the issues and talk about them in a normal language. This is why he has settled into the role of celebrity pundit - rather than politician. As Alasdair Murray argues in the magazine this week  (he's the guest political columnist) the Cable phenomenon has managed to sell his book and get him to quickstep with Alesha Dixon but has not profited the LibDems one iota. His popularity rests on his being seen as above politics. He doesn't seem to mind this much and is even producing personal economic policy. He seems to think, as I say in my News of the World column tomorrow, that - economically speaking - "I'm too sexy for your party". Well, economically speaking, he isn't that sexy - as the Neil interview makes clear. And as the election approaches, I hope that Cable may well get a little more economic scrutiny (Evan Davis next, maybe?) and the Sage of Twickenham may be held to account a little better.