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So the Lib Dems never believed what they said at election!

Posted on 19 June 2010 | 1:06pm

Even though he was a bit grudging in his review of Prelude to Power (aka ‘perfect Father’s Day gift’ according to some publicist via some twitterer called @campbellclaret) George Parker of the FT remains a political journalist I don’t mind reading (this is high praise in my lexicon of judgements on political journalists).

In his pre-Budget report today is tucked away a fascinating line, namely … ‘Senior Lib Dems whisper that Vince Cable, the Lib Dem Business Secretary, never really believed his pre-election rhetoric that cuts should be delayed until 2011.’

I think this is worth repeating … ‘Senior Lib Dems whisper that Vince Cable, the Lib Dem Business Secretary, never really believed his pre-election rhetoric that cuts should be delayed until 2011.’

Fascinating, fascinating, fascinating. So the man who became, variously, ‘everyone’s favourite politician,’ ‘the  politician who got it right all along,’ ‘the politician who really understands the economy’, ‘the one politician you can trust to tell the truth’ believed none of it all along. He was just waiting for Dave and Nick to cuddle up in bed together, plan the cuts, and he would happily leap from one set of economic and political beliefs to another.

Now it could be of course that the Lib Dem whisperers are not Mr Cable, or anyone close to him, but what might be called Clegg-ites, or Danny Alexander-ites, who are so pleased to be in government that they will do and say pretty much anything Dave or George tell them to.

And it may further be that they hear the noises of Vince’s discontent, and possible rumblings that he doesn’t think the coalition is sustainable, so they feel they have to do a bit of VC re-education programming via the paper they know he is most likely to read.

Of course we all remember from the election that if you voted Lib Dem, you would see an end to spin, and also you would see politicians who did the old-fashioned thing of saying one thing to get elected, and then doing it when they got elected. Remember that one? Oh, it was one of Cleggy’s favourites.

But that was before this amazing thing happened a few days after May 6. They discovered GREECE. Yes, they had never heard of Greece until then. We know Clegg speaks a few hundred languages but Greek is not one of them, so we can forgive him for not having heard of Greece until he was in his nice big office close to Dave’s place.

Not only did he hear of Greece, but also they discovered, via the new Office for Budget Responsibility, that the economy was in an even worse shape than Dave and George had been saying during the campaign when they said we were Greece (Nick can’t have been listening at the time because he only heard of Greece on May 11) Only in fact the OBR was not saying that at all, but Dave and George told Nick and Danny they had to say that the OBR HAD said that, because the media loves them, you see, and if they say it often enough, the media will ignore what the OBR actually says, and report instead what D and G, and N and D, say they said. It’s not spin, you understand, just that we’re all in this together.

So Greece, OBR and then of course all those terrible Labour people throwing around money that didn’t exist… like a loan to a company in Sheffield (note the word loan btw … something that can come back with interest once its job has been done). Then there were all those big ticket items like free swimming for kids and pensioners. I mean, come on, these are bank-breakers…

I was presenting awards at a dinner after the England match last night and for the second time this week, I found Clegg really does work as the butt of humour, much better than D and G, because the public sense that when it comes to waving the axe at things like free swimming or new hospitals, the Tories really enjoy it and believe in it, but the public know Clegg campaigned – and somehow became DPM – on a totally different tack. He used to believe that if you cut back on the stimulus to the economy before it is growing properly, you risked pushing up unemployment and risking a double dip recession.

So did Cable, who looks increasingly like a Prisoner of War. The ‘Senior Lib Dems whisper’ briefings of re-education are part of his punishment routine, but over time they hope a version of the Stockholm syndrome will kick in. But I hear from inside Lib Dem HQ that he continues to let people know of his doubts and concerns, whilst simultaneously facing the other way – or trying to – in public.

It is not very seemly though, is it, when the only way these people can justify the total volte face they have made on their economic agenda is to say they never believed the one they fought on at the election? I thank Mr George Parker for this piece of reporting. At least the Tories are the same old Tories. Increasingly the Lib Dems are coming over as a bunch of charlatans.

*** Buy Prelude to Power here at Amazon. Or, as it is the ‘perfect Father’s Day present’, give Holland v Japan a miss and get down to Waterstone’s. They might even have it properly stocked by now.

  • Nathan Chalk

    It’s really quite depressing, isn’t it. The Lib Dems seem to have evolved in completely the wrong direction from the party they used to be under Paddy and Charles. Power for power’s sake, lying when you were the party that pledged an end to political untruths.
    I hope Vince comes out himself and makes his stance clear on this matter. Is he going to admit he was “wrong”?

  • Paul Hillman

    At least we had vaguely been aware of Cable but the other problem with this coalition govt is that from a small number of Lib Dem MPs we are expected to believe that we have all this ministerial talent now inserted into all the departments. Nobody has a clue who they are, what they believe, whether they are competent for the job.

  • Trudi Pearse

    Clegg got fewer seats than Kennedy. He had one good tv debate (so they say) and on the basis of that is now deputy PM (if not the second most important person in the government). He was voted for because he said he was different but has been exposed as the worst kind of careerist politician

  • Colette Bryan

    Your book arrived this morning — finally! I am a sucker for the hard sell so am going to give to my dad for dad’s day and get another for myself!!

  • Vitesh

    I campaigned for the Lib Dems in Sheffield (not Clegg’s seat but close) and I now feel not just let down but ashamed. I lost friends who I tried to persuade that Labour were not any more the progressive force in politics and only the LDs would be. I wish it was May 5 all over again and I could vote as I should have done

  • Quietzapple

    I didn’t fall for Vince “Gonzo” Cable myself. The National Liberals were always going to say anything for a vote.

    But I am rather keen on the many labour Achievements set out after the blogs of Lord Toby Harris and precis on twitter as @labAchievements.

    These are regularly dissed by Labour Party members and candidates for the Leadership by omission and commission.

    Cable is not the only turncoat. I hope that sanity will settle upon the body politic in short order, but fear that preparation of the insane pre-emptive cuts will be accompanied by a cull of those with any commonsense.

  • Mark Wright

    At every press conference I’ve seen with Vince Cable in Govt he looks like one someone in one of those hostage videos being forced to say nice things about his captors and spout policy positions he can’t possibly believe or else they’ll murder either a) his hamster or b) him. It’s about as convincing as Capello saying the only thing lacking in the England football team is ‘spirit’.

    But they should be careful when dissing him. Whether they like to believe it or not he IS one of Britain’s most respected politicians and they distance themselves from him at their peril. When it all goes up in smoke Dr Cable will be able to cash in on his outsider status to pick up the pieces. We may see him back as leader of the Lib Dems yet.

    Although to be fair to ‘Con-Dems’ (see what I did there?) there’s a lot of this ‘I never really believed in it all along’ going around at the moment.

    Messers Balls, Milliband (the lesser known Ed variety) etc are also claiming they “never really did believe in x, y or z. Oh and can I have your vote.” Well, no mate, you can’t. P*ss off.

    When the cuts come nobody will give a toss about who believed what and when. All they’ll know is that they are getting stung and hard. Let’s see them spin themselves out of THAT!

  • Peter Deville

    “At least the Tories are the same old Tories. Increasingly the Lib Dems are coming over as a bunch of charlatans.” That, for me, is the perfect description of the Coalition.

    I really feel the ‘cuts’ agenda is on increasingly shaky ground and it is up to Labour to push home the advantage. Liam Byrne did an excellent job against Danny Alexander earlier in the week and it’s already clear the latter comes up short in the skills needed for his job. It was refreshing to see some real aggression from the opposition front bench. Byrne and Darling will have to take the fight to the Con Dems because Harman doesn’t have the presence or the natural aggression.

    It’s a shame Byrne handed the Coalition an ace in the form of his infamous letter – he and the opposition front bench really have to find a way to counter the govt every time they fall back on it as an excuse.

    The drawn-out leadership election is harming Labour at the moment because without a strong and definite leader, there is no clear focal point for the opposition or clear cohesion in strategy. There are too many competing voices and mixed messages.

    As for Vince Cable, it was interesting watching him during PMQs – I’ve never seen him looking so uncomfortable, as if the sound of David Cameron’s voice was like fingernails scraping a blackboard. He’s between a rock and a hard place. It’s clear the current govt policy and rhetoric is anathema to him, but he knows if he breaks ranks it has the potential to seriously damage the Coalition, along with his party, his conscience and his career. So I think he will maintain the facade until he senses danger from within, at which point he will likely jump before being pushed.

  • Quietzapple

    When the Cuts begin to degrade the nature of Britain, and especially if they have dire consequences for the economy as a whole, Cable will be held to blame no less than Jim Knight was for the WW Recession in the recent General Election.

    Not me guv won’t work for him, and he may follow Lord Knight in avoiding such a stance, and hope for his elevation in turn. (Though it is hard to see every Nat Lib who goes down in 2015 being ennobled before the House of Lords become wholly elected)

  • olli issakainen

    Will George Osborne save or ruin the economy?
    Government outlay has grown from £500bn (2005) to £700bn while tax revenues have remained close to £541bn. Last balanced Bugdet was in 2001.
    Has Britain lived beyond its means? Is there something wrong with Western societies´ psychology when it comes debt? Have governments, businesses and individuals had too relaxed “tomorrow does not matter” attitude toward debt? Is Britain´s stock of debt rising exponentially?
    It seems that cutting public spending merely to halve £155bn deficit will result in total debt of £1.4tr with debt interest of £70bn a year.
    Will there be a recovery or recession? It is important to make a distinction between political and intellectual debate. The Tories want a shift of resource to private sector no matter what the economic situation is. They want a smaller state.
    The answer to the intellectual debate about early cuts should be a fact, not a matter of opinion. Unfortunately economists have different views. When two economists meet, there are at least three opinions! (John Kenneth Galbraith once said that the purpose of economics is to give credibility to astrology.)
    It is easier to cut than build. But as Martin Wolf of FT says there are risks to early cuts. Premature cutting may lead to recession. So there is a serious downside.
    Cutting public spending will not automatically raise private spending. And reduction in structural defifit might lead to a rise in cyclical fiscal deficits. Premature fiscal retrenchment may cause destabilisation of the world economy. What is needed is fiscal stabilisation that supports growth!
    It is important to understand that the financial crisis is still in its early stages. And there will be another economic downturn before everything is back to normal.
    The Con-Lib government thinks that unemployment is a price worth paying to reduce borrowing.
    Reform think tank says that the NHS, education and police should also be included in cuts. It proposes a small state with public spending of only 36% of GDP. New economic reality needs new economic order. Derek Scott claims that Keynesian rules do not apply because the deficit is so big.
    Individuals can live beyond their means, but what about governments? Keynesian view is that governments in recession must also take a longer-view and act in common interest. Quantitative easing must be used to create new money. Tax revenues will recover faster and deficit will be under control sooner.
    Of course, spending must be economically worthwhile encouraging investment and employment and improving productivity.
    The Con-Lib government and media appear to think that cuts are the only way. But cutting now will make the situation worse. David Blanchflower says he is now 100% certain that there will be a double-dip recession. It seems that the coalition government is “much worse that we thought”.
    What is needed is a coherent alternative. A new model to rebuild economy. I was pleased to see Ed Balls to criticize neoliberalism and Ed Miliband to call for stronger industrial intervention. David Miliband is also right to call for transaction tax. I also agree with him that the balance between cuts and tax should be 2:1.
    Britain needs a new model also because of shrinking financial sector, industrial decline and falling North Sea oil revenues.
    George Osborne is between rock and hard place. Cutting too little too late would also cause problems. It takes years to solve structural deficit. Intervention must boost demand without affecting the job on structural deficit.
    It is important to notice that fiscal policy has limited impact on immediate economic outlook.
    Britain´s long-term growth rate is 2% instead of 2.75%. In 30 years time this means that the GDP will be £630bn smaller.
    In summary, the challenge is to cut deficit in a way that rejuvenates economy. The party that “owns” growth owns political and economic future!

  • Patrick James

    The Lib Dems stood for election as a left of centre party and now are using those left of centre votes as a mandate for supporting a right wing government.

    Whoever is elected as leader of the Labour party I think they should make getting those “stolen” Lib Dem voters back a priority.

    It is a bit funny watching the actual centre left Lib Dems wriggle in pain. At least the left of centre ones find their position morally very difficult.

    However the right wing Lib Dems, these orange book liberals, they were so dishonest in that general election. Best known is Nick Clegg of course. They stood on a left of centre manifesto, but they have a totally different political outlook. That is just a disgrace.

  • Robin

    Call me gullible but I prefer to believe the line that the Lib Dems, like most of us, were unaware of the sheer scale of Labours dishonesty in revealing the true state of the Nations finances. The appalling mismanagement of the Economy by a collection of tribal politicians makes my blood boil, and the tripe dished up by Campbell just illustrates how devisive and self-serving they were.
    It is a sad fact that Labour believes throwing money at an issue solves it. What they forget is that it’s taxpayers money and they should make it their priority to get absolute value from it.
    The only reason I read the garbage spouted by Campbell is to remind myself why I would never vote Labour

  • Ian

    Reading Prelude to Power this afternoon; it is a timely reminder of the amount of serious work that needs to be done in opposition to get to the winning spot. The Tories had 13 years and failed to do it. Robin – we don’t deserve a government of losers, and their grand narrative of fear to justify a programme of retrogressive cuts will come undone. Just not soon enough to prevent a great deal of hardship and suffering amongst those who can bear it the least in British society.

  • Janete


    Perhaps you should watch today’s Dateline London programme aired on the BBC News channel (and on IPlayer) for an international perspective of what George Osborne is up to. The clear consensus is that a) the figures produced by the OBR do not support the notion that Britain is in crisis, b) that the need to cut deeply now is borne out of an ideological commitment to cuts rather than necessity and c) no-one truly equates Britain with Greece in economic terms and it is very risky to cut too soon and too much.

    I regret that there are too many ‘gullible’ souls like yourself who have fallen for this ConDem analysis. Their presentation of the economic situation is designed to make us believe that savage cuts are the only solution. The folly of this course of action will be all too plain to see before long. I am hoping that enough Lib Dem MPs come to their senses before it’s too late, but I fear they are too drunk with power to notice or care about the damage they will do to the most vulnerable in our society.

  • Jon

    You are the most ill-informed Murdoch- succoured arsehole I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.

  • alan

    I too hope at some point in the near future Cable comes out hands help high and says it’s wrong but i fear i may well have a long wait for it to happen,power does funny things to people,but i may have missed it but we haven’t seen much of uncle Vince since the election have we?but as i say that may be me missing news broadcasts.

    I’ve said it before the Libdems will come out worse with this deal of that I’m sure,it all goes belly up the Cam can share and indeed at times heap the blame on them,if it all goes well then it was all Tory policy that worked wasn’t it? i fear it will be a broken party when this is all over and they will have Clegg and Bambi Alexander to blame(and laws if he’s still around)because surely for a supposedly centre left party such as the liberals a Tory minority government would have been the best bet for all concerned but as i say a whiff of power..

  • Keith McBurney

    Its unbelievable you are talking about never believed, and your addiction to whispering doesn’t help.

    The prospect of being back at ’45 by ’40 means cold turkey. So spare us the party political fluff guff huff stuff. Its much too serious to go into the spin wash.

    Who wasn’t on watch to look out for us with a bit of boom set aside as hedge against financial privateers?
    Yes, you are right: incompetent, incontinent, one eyed on the 2010 election Labour bent on being back by 2014.

    There is no point asking for votes at elections so that LabLibServatives can spend and cut our savings. So why do you want another 3.5 million on the electoral register when politicians will have spent what little is left already?

    On matters of financial economy, quoting Martin Wolf would help better understanding.(I’m assuming your FT subscription is still being paid for.) Mind too big too fail doesn’t stop just at the banks he’ll report for break-up and get our dosh back with interest. Now there’s a novelty worth repeating it were it not for inflation.

    PS Setting considerations on Labour’s Emergency Budget on Tues 22 June aside, but in hope that it is a bottom-up win-win for all or nations’ peoples, who would you select to keep cool heads and not over anxious for England in front of goal to put the ball into the oppositions net (for the avoidance of doubting James)?

  • Richard Burnell

    1. Sheffield Forgemasters is a private company which should be financed by it’s owners and the banks. It was a political decision to allow such a loan to a firm in the Peoples’ Republic of Sheffield. Why were such loans not freely available to other businesses over the last few years?
    2. The £450 million North Tees hospital was a future expenditure. In our “real” lives we cannot have everything now and have to defer expenditure when times are tough.

    The above are examples of “non cuts” but the restraint required for our economy to represent a viable investment for those who will be required to finance the proposed £1.4 trillion national debt.

    Get it?

  • Kennt Queen

    As a Political strategist you must really be rubbing your hands at the potential ”potential” in the coalition .

    We all know one of Labours great strength was its time in opposition , they were very effective , the future months look like easy meat .

  • Isla

    No, you’re quite right, Vince Cable has been very invisible since the election, in complete contrast to pre-election -and as a very unhappy LD voter, I for one would like some honesty about why. I also do not totaly buy it that he steped down as Deputy Leader because of the demands of his new role. I left Labour becuase I thought they had lost their way very badly, and joined the Lib Dems becuase they seemed to have a clear commitment to centre left policy and to honesty -both of which now seem to be in danger of being casualties of the coalition. My resignation letter is very close to being written, though not yet convinced I could return to the Labour fold – but watching leadership activity with interest..

  • Jo McCarron

    Eh but that Cleggy with his multitude of languages aint half a cunning linguist!