Thursday, 26 July 2012

The Strange Resurrection of Saint Vince of Twickenham

There isn't likely to be many more unexpected a sight than that plastered on the front page of today's Labour-supporting Daily Mirror.

It really is quite a stunning endorsement of Vince Cable that the Mirror could state in its editorial:

"We believe this is the time for Plan V: Vince Cable, the only leading light in the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition with the expertise and experience, the nerve and verve to pilot Britain out of this mess...We say: "Send for Vince Cable".

Of course, Vince is on the left of the party and has close connections with the Labour Party leadership as The Independent's Steve Richards explained on Tuesday, so if the Mirror were to ever endorse any non-Labour Party MP for such a central role as Chancellor, then it could only be one with Vince's background.

A Star Re-born
Yet, it wasn't so long ago that Vince's name had apparently been terminally damaged by a number of controversial decisions in the earlier days of the Coalition Government.

The old sage, who had long foretold the economic crash and the reasons for it, was that rare creature - a popular politician across the political spectrum and beyond. He did his credentials no harm at all when he adeptly stepped into the role of Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats when Sir Menzies Campbell resigned as leader suddenly in October 2007.

But with the on-set of the coalition government and his new role as Secretary of State for Business, he would face the controversial issue of Tuition Fees in the autumn of 2010. He supported the new policy which caused great distress for his party and his stock fell as a result. During the same period, he was caught in a Daily Telegraph 'sting' declaring war on Rupert Murdoch's empire. He was immediately stripped of his responsibility of deciding on Murdoch's News Corporation takeover bid for BSkyB and his political judgement was called into question.

Yet now, merely some 18 months on, his position at the heart of the coalition is assured. The phone-hacking scandal which has mired the Murdoch empire has in the eyes of many, vindicated Cable's unguarded comments and whilst the Tuition Fees policy still wrankles, he is seen by many as merely being the Minister who had to deliver on a policy that had been agreed as a part of the Coalition Agreement.

To many and to quote a friend of mine, Paul Pettinger, Vince Cable's is:

"The face of a bank bashing, Murdock Empire fighting, idle rich scaring, Saudi King snubbing, economically literate radical. He might not always be a team player...but the whispery hair on his head has the passing resemblance of a halo".

Us liberals really do rather like a radical non-conformist.

Of course, as Stephen Tall states on Lib Dem Voice, there's no realistic chance of Vince Cable succeeding George Osbourne as the next resident of No.11 Downing Street - the Tory backbenchers just wouldn't have it! But the very fact that he is now being openly touted for such a promotion by political journalists, by the public and now, quite incredibly, by the Daily Mirror shows how his political worth has once more grown to impressive levels.

As a member of the Liberal Democrats, I have often heard Vince speak at party conferences and in recent years, his would always be a 'must-attend' fringe meeting or platform speech. He is one of those rare breeds who can make economics sound 'sexy'. He has an ability to explain the complicated in such a way that any layman could understand.

Back in the early months of 2011, his reputation had taken a battering and any lesser man may not have recovered his footing. But not Vince Cable. When the party reconvenes at its Brighton conference this coming September I can see his reception now. He'll be greeted as one of the most able, most reasonable and most likeable of our party's leaders.

He may not have been canonised yet, but if recent public opinion is anything to go by, it can surely only be a matter of time.

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