Political

Vince Cable has a new book out – and a fascinating interview

Ahead of the publication of Vince Cable’s new book, After the Storm, he has done an extensive and fascinating interview with The Guardian.

Here are a few of the highlights:

After toeing the line for five years, he can go public with his criticisms of chancellor George Osborne’s handling of the economy. He warns that the emphasis on consumption rather than investment, the continuing reliance on house price inflation as the driver of growth, the decline in productivity and innovation mean fundamental problems are not being addressed. He is also the first minister to lift the lid on the coalition: we learn the Tories could be likable colleagues but “collectively appalling, with ugly tribal prejudices”; that Osborne and David Cameron were unable “to move Theresa May an inch”; that Osborne’s Treasury effectively controlled government, with a hands-off Cameron; and that, in Cable’s view, Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander were too accepting of the Treasury line…

Does he blame Clegg for the rout in May? “No. It was a collective responsibility. I don’t think pointing the finger is sensible.”…

I ask Cable what he is most proud of having achieved in government. He points to various policies – an industrial strategy, a green investment bank, an apprenticeships scheme, introducing shared parental leave and flexible working, getting women on the boards of major companies. But even more important, he says, is what the Lib Dems stopped: with a majority Tory government, we are now seeing nature blue in tooth and claw…

Ahead of the 2010 election, the Lib Dems pledged to abolish tuition fees, but as business secretary Cable steered through a policy that saw fees treble to £9,000. “On that big issue he got it badly wrong,” says Mark Pack, editor of the monthly newsletter Liberal Democrat Newswire. “He takes a heavy degree of responsibility. But there is an odd Teflon quality about him – a lot of activists were very angry about tuition fees, but they blamed Nick Clegg and said how lovely Vince Cable was” [on which I wrote about at the time here].

“I’ve endlessly gone over in my head what we might have done differently,” Cable says now. “There was always scepticism about abolishing fees, but our national executive insisted on retaining this totem. That was the disaster.”

You can order Vince Cable’s new book, After the Storm, here.

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