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  • Vincemania, and the reality?

    by Rumbold
    2nd December, 2007 at 8:07 pm    

    Vincent ‘Vince’ Cable’s performance as acting leader of the Lib Dems has impressed many observers, as Aaron Heath chronicles. His quip about Gordon Brown morphing from Stalin to Mr. Bean was merely the icing on the cake. The seemingly lacklustre leadership campaigns of Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne have led to speculation that some Lib Dem activists will try and ‘Draft Vince’. Even Melanie Phillips is supporting him for the leadership.

    I think that Cable would make an excellent Lib Dem leader. The question is though, does he really want the job? Most new political leaders enjoy a honeymoon period, but, after a while, Cable’s life and times would come under more scrutiny. Not that there are any skeletons in his closet, but it still an unpleasant feeling to have your personal life scrutinised, and for what? The Lib Dems are never going to be the largest party in Cable’s lifetime, if ever. As he did not stand in either of the two previous Lib Dem leadership elections, then that is perhaps a sign of his ambitions; he is happy where he is.

    If Cable entered the race now, he may well win, but it would leave a deeply divided party, as supporters of Huhne and Clegg would feel betrayed by this volte-face. Such an outcome would be a disaster for the Lib Dems, who have yet to recover from the way in which they disposed of Charles Kennedy and Menzies Campbell. A bitterly-divided third party would surely sink into irrelevance.

    For the cynics amongst us, there is another reason why Cable would not want to be Lib Dem leader: power. It is conceivable that the next general election will produce a hung parliament, and so either Labour or the Conservatives will have to form a coalition with the Lib Dems. Coalitions always have problems dividing up cabinet posts. Arguably, the three top cabinet posts are Prime Minister, Chancellor and Home Secretary (Foreign Secretary is a lesser post now because of the consolidation of foreign affairs in the hands of the Prime Minister). The Labour or Tory party would obviously take the role of Prime Minister, and that of Home Secretary, as to leave the police and prisons in the charge of a Lib Dem would be a public relations disaster (whatever the reality, most of the electorate views the Lib Dems as more woolly-headed and pro-criminal than the other two parties).

    This leaves the position of Chancellor, which the Lib Dems could justifiably claim as their prize. Cable is more experienced and competent than either George Osborne or Alistair Darling, which means that he would be an acceptable choice. If Cable had become Lib Dem leader before this though, then somebody else would have taken his position as the Lib Dem’s Treasury Spokesman (i.e. Shadow Chancellor), and thus he would have competition for the role. There is also the difficulty of what to do with the leader of a minority party in a coalition, with the easiest solution being to make them Deputy Prime Minister, or else give them a glamorous job like Foreign Secretary.

    Cable is better off staying in his present position. There is less pressure and media intrusion, he is well-respected and liked, and he may find himself the beneficiary of greater rewards in the end.

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    Filed in: Current affairs,Party politics

    4 Comments below   |  

    Reactions: Twitter, blogs

    1. Sunny — on 2nd December, 2007 at 11:42 pm  

      Very interesting and spot-on analysis. I did briefly entertain the idea of writing about Vince running, but I agree that its probably not the best move.

    2. Letters From A Tory — on 3rd December, 2007 at 8:37 am  

      I have no idea how people’s opinion of someone can change so much after one remark in one debate in the Commons. I agree that he hasn’t done anything wrong per se, but that’s a long way off being a great leader.

    3. Leon — on 3rd December, 2007 at 12:49 pm  

      If Cable entered the race now, he may well win,

      I thought nominations for candidates are closed already, making the idea of Vince running impossible?

    4. thomas — on 3rd December, 2007 at 5:45 pm  

      Let me join in the chorus of praise for Vince Cable. I agree that he has shown some of the qualities of good leadership during his short tenure as acting leader of the LibDems.
      I would add that the single quality that sets him apart from the crowd is his knowledge of his own limitations, which enables him to pursue the things he is good at while letting others maximise their different strengths.

      In an age where media-dominated chattering classes have ever-expanding demands of perfection from politics and public life, partly in response to the failings of our media-centric systems of scrutiny, it is refreshing to encounter anyone who can raise themselves above the fray.
      This media class has set an impossible task of itself, and by implication also of our politicians, by arrogantly raising false expectations - had we believed the propaganda mill then anything less than a messianic deliverance by Blair from Thatcher (now Brown from Blair, but firstly Thatcher from the unions and the winter of discontent and subsequently, we expect, Cameron from Brown) was beyond contemplation - yet according to our media reflection nothing less is worthy of our attention.

      Surely what we are experiencing is a case of believing the hype, falling into the trap constructed by one’s own acolytes and reading the words without understanding the message. But only because only the best is good enough, and because we know we are worth it!

      One might ask about motions, but I’m not sure anyone could agree whether they were coming or going, let alone whether we were going through any at all for that matter - except Vince, of course.

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