All Hail Sir Vince
So, Sir Vincent Cable has finally manipulated and schemed his way to the top of his Party, unopposed, like the king of a war-torn, pillaged and ruined land no one else wants, with every other suitor having already fallen on their sword or been stabbed in the back (mostly the former) and most of the population having moved on to greener pastures and more fruitful labours.
A delusional man, who believes himself to be a British President Macron dressed in faded robes from his days as Heir Apparent to King Clegg. Once he was the natural leader of the Liberal Democrats, the patron saint of its social liberal wing and the super-smart Finance Spokesperson who was proclaimed a maestro for being the “only” politician to predict the credit crunch.
Here is the man who claimed he could “bring down the government” if he chose, the man who throughout the early days of the Coalition looked poised to kick the despised Clegg off his pedestal and lead the Liberal Democrats out of the sticky mess which they had firmly wedged themselves into.
Oh, how the shine has certainly come off. Having once mocked then Prime Minister Gordon Brown for transforming from “Stalin to Mr. Bean” he himself looks decidedly out of touch- his rise to the leadership seems to have been widely met by liberal democrats of both the left and right with a resounding “meh”. While both men came to office in a glorious coronation atop of the bloodied corpses of their political revivals, at least in Brown’s case he didn’t have to claim from the start he was just a caretaker before someone better comes along.
We live in turbulent times, and yet the Liberal Democrats now have a Leader who, unlike Gordon Brown (who eventually saw the folly of his “light touch” approach to finance and nationalised the banks) clawing the Labour Party back from inevitable oblivion and pushing the Tories back to a hung Parliament a year later, shows no such sign of dynamism or of understanding the changing weather of British politics.
Let’s start with the basics. In a time when the youth vote has become demonstrably more important thanks to the efforts of Corbyn and co. you would have thought any Party wishing to revive its fortunes in the post-Brexit world would want to be promoting bold, radical policies to change the economic rules of the game which have so disadvantaged the young. But the words “radical” and “Sir Vince” don’t really still very well together.
He is a close adherent to the idea of the need for a new Party of the centre ground (wherever that is) an idea which has been so thoroughly rejected by the electorate in 2017 (and before the arrival of Mr. Corbyn on the scene, with the long-term flight of votes to more radical Parties of the left and right such as the Greens and UKIP). He thinks zero-hours contracts have “a place” in Britain’s labour market, the Citizen’s Income would be “unfair”, and that scrapping tuition fees would be “stupid”. Hardly the stuff to start winning over all those enthused Corbynistas from Glastonbury to Durham is it?
But surely, if the new Leader of the Liberal Democrats has no appetite for radical policies at home, it should be a given that the Leader of Britain’s most fanatically anti-Brexit Party should want to be out there on the streets, rallying the legendary 48% from their homes, sticking two fingers up to the referendum result and, wait, what’s that? He wants controls on immigration and an end to Freedom of Movement?
There is, arguably, a need in British politics for a third Party to fight specifically for civil liberties and human rights. Something which all governments, especially Tory but also Labour (under Blair and Brown) have in the past shown an alarming disregard for. But standing up to the establishment and the state takes backbone, something which, if he ever had it, Sir Vince traded long ago for a Ministerial limo.
Now he is out of government Sir Vince shows no sign of having fashioned himself a new one. Every senior Lib Dem during the Coalition tried to justify what they were doing on the basis that whatever good they were doing in government (no government is without some merit) ought to outweigh the fact that they were propping up a vicious Tory government in the process of destroying our economy in the name of corporate greed. That they were somehow a “break” on Conservative policy, while voting through welfare cuts which killed poor and disabled people.
But Vince Cable was by far the worst. Not only did he vote with the government on every destructive policy, but as a beacon of hope for those liberals who saw what they were doing was fundamentally wrong, he betrayed his own movement and deepened the Liberal’s alienation from the progressive left by failing to take up the mantle he was offered. When exposed as a critic of his own government instead of seizing the moment, he merely meekly expressed embarrassment and shuffled away from the spotlight, apparently more scared of losing his title and position than of doing the right thing – his reputation has never really recovered. Three years later he was promising a “carefully considered” bonfire of regulations and his humiliation was completed by being appointed the man to carry out the illogical and inevitably botched sale of Royal Mail.
Perhaps his political positions suggest that he was never actually much of a progressive in the first place. In retrospect he seems to have been quite happy rubbing shoulders with the posh boys in David Cameron’s cabinet. His vanity for his position perhaps indicates he could stand being the oik because not so deep down, he believed that he was better and smarter than all of them (no mean feat, to be fair).
But whether guilty of cowardice, or simple vanity, one thing is certain; his time has passed. He is Leader now, the role he has craved for so long, and yet he will be able to do so little with it. Constrained by his own rhetoric and past actions, he can be neither radical, nor conservative – a true centrist! Irrelevant, alone, his troops have deserted or are indifferent to him. He can inspire no one. The cup of victory is tainted with the bitterness – no doubt his sprightly new Deputy, Jo Swinson, will put some vim into his leadership, but it is only a matter of time before she comes to finish him off. He is living on borrowed time, even before his reign has really begun. And he only has himself to blame.
Macron Version Deux? C’est ridicule.