It looks a lot like the Liberal Democrats are lining Vince Cable up to run as an unopposed candidate to lead their party.
The problem of course is that Vince is a shockingly discredited figure whose appointment as leader would be yet another demonstration of the fact that the Lib-Dems are still living in denial about the damage they did by enabling the Tories back into power in 2010, rather than using the strong 3rd party position they had to actually hold them to account.
I used to quite like Vince Cable because he was one of the few politicians who seemed to have any real understanding of the global financial sector insolvency crisis at the time, but he pissed that reputation away completely when he conducted one of the most obviously self-serving U-turns in political history.
Before the 2010 General Election Vince repeatedly warned against deep ideologically driven cuts to public spending. He said “it would be reckless to plunge the economy back into recession through the immediate large-scale slashing of public services and jobs” and against making “damaging cuts in investment that undermine the country’s long-term future” [source].
Seven years of economic stagnation and failed economic targets from the Tories as a result of their ideological fixation with austerity dogma says that Vince was absolutely right to warn against reckless large-scale slashing of government expenditure and deliberate under-investment in the nation’s future.
The problem of course is that Vince abandoned his anti-austerity position faster than you could say “opportunism” when the 2010 General Election resulted in a hung parliament, and went off to spend five years at the Treasury actually helping George Osborne to implement his socially and economically ruinous austerity agenda.
It’s one thing being an ideologically driven nitwit like George Osborne who actually seemed to believe that “let’s cut our way to growth” was a coherent and viable economic strategy, but Vince was one of the leading voices against this kind of economically illiterate delusion.
Vince abandoned economic sense entirely and lent a veneer of respectability to austerity dogma by actually serving George Osborne at the Treasury, which makes him an awful lot worse than Osborne, because Vince knew perfectly well how much damage he was actively helping Osborne to inflict, but he did it anyway.
Vince Cable was one of the leading Lib-Dems who decided that completely shafting the students who helped vote them into power was a price worth paying for the self-satisfaction of a few years of ministerial salaries and the taste of some second hand Tory power.
The result of the Lib-Dem betrayal of their core student demographic is that students from the poorest backgrounds are now leaving university with £57,000 worth of debt, and an astonishing 75% of graduates are projected to never pay back their vast debts because of the extortionate 6% interest rates.
Despite these shocking statistics Vince Cable is insistent that the Lib-Dems imposing these vindictive disposable income-wrecking taxes on aspiration, despite their 2010 election pledge to actually scrap tuition fees, was the right thing to do.
Shafting one of your core demographics is an astoundingly inept move, and the Lib-Dems will never recover for as long as they continue the farce that imposing the highest public university fees in the world on English students was somehow a justifiable move.
It’s much more than the fact that students won’t come back to the Lib-Dems, it’s the fact that anyone with any political sense at all will think to themselves “if the Lib-Dems were prepared to totally shaft their own student demographic for their own self-serving reasons, why wouldn’t they shaft me too?”
Another Lib-Dem principle to get slung into the political dustbin during the coalition years was the party’s commitment to liberalism. Between 2010 and 2015 the Lib-Dems helped the Tories to impose some of the most right-wing authoritarian and downright illiberal legislation since universal suffrage.
One of the worst examples of Lib-Dem backed illiberalism was Theresa May’s depraved move to scrap the principle of open justice with Secret Courts (Closed Material Proceedings) in her 2013 Justice and Security Act.
This legislation creates the situation where a defendant can have their fate decided in a courtroom they are not allowed to enter, on charges they are not allowed to know, based on evidence that they are not allowed to see, and instead of having their own lawyer, they’re given what is called a “special advocate” who is appointed to “defend” them by the state that is prosecuting them!
Vince Cable was an enthusiastic backer of this outrageously illiberal assault on the openness and accountability of the justice system, so anyone who supports the Lib-Dems because they consider themselves liberal should understand that Vince is so illiberal that he actively supported most of Theresa May’s most illiberal and downright malicious schemes.
Before his conversion to Toryism Vince Cable was a man who described the invasion and occupation of Iraq as “the last straw” and complained about the nebulous ever changing justification for the occupation of Afghanistan.
After his conversion to Toryism Vince became a man who voted in favour of creating a terrorist breeding ground in Libya, and then even backed David Cameron’s lunatic plan to hand Damascus to ISIS by attacking Assad (which was thankfully defeated when 30 Tory MPs and 10 Lib Dems had the good sense to rebel against Cameron’s rush to war making him the first Prime Minister to lose a war vote since 1782).
Charles Kennedy won a great number of people to the Lib-Dem cause with his principled stance against imperialist warmongering, but Vince Cable helped to demolish that legacy by backing every imperialist adventure Cameron proposed, no matter how ridiculously ill-conceived.
Back in May 2010 one thing was absolutely clear to most of us; David Cameron and the Tories needed Nick Clegg and the Lib-Dems a hell of a lot more than the Lib-Dems needed the Tories, but Clegg, Cable, Alexander and co were so giddy with excitement at the chance to become government ministers that they agreed to an absurdly one-sided coalition arrangement that saw them shaft their own core demographics, abandon their own principles, and cement the Tories into power for 5 ruinous years.
A look at Theresa May’s deal with the DUP bigots shows what kind of agreement the Lib-Dems should have aimed at.
The DUP knew that Theresa May needed their 10 votes more than they needed her, so they blagged everything they could, including a £1 billion bung for Northern Ireland, promises that the Tories would bin bits of their own manifesto, and on the DUP side they reserved the right to rebel against any particular bits of Tory malice they don’t like, and limited the agreement to two years!
The Lib-Dems had 57 votes to bargain with, but they were the ones who made most of the concessions in their desperation to bag ministerial salaries for themselves!
The Lib-Dems were so strategically inept they willingly allowed the Tories to bind their hands and feet and then spend five years whipping them to within an inch of their lives, and Vince was a major player in negotiating this absolute capitulation of a deal.
Why would anyone with the remotest bit of political nous vote ever for a party led by such a strategically inept charlatan?
Vince Cable is dead wood
Vince Cable is the living embodiment of Lib-Dem betrayal. He stands for nothing except for self-serving political opportunism, and that’s why he would make such a fantastic choice of leader for the Lib-Dems.
If they wanted to rebuild their shattered reputation then they would need to move on from the shockingly unprincipled old guard and find a leader with a coherent vision of what the purpose of the Liberal Democrats actually is, and the conviction to stick by this vision when opposition parties offer them trinkets and baubles to lob all of their convictions in the political bin.
Vince was a major player in the Lib-Dem leadership who saw their share of the vote plunge from 23% (on the verge of turning the UK into a genuine three party state) to below 8% (back to the kind of hopeless mess they were in under Jeremy Thorpe back in the 1970s).
You’d have to be as delusional as … well … as delusional as a Liberal Democrat to imagine that the voters will come flocking back to the Lib-Dems if one of the main architects of their collapse is handed the leadership in an uncontested election.
But good on them for finding their ideal leader. Who better to lead an unpopular party of self-serving political opportunists than one of the most discredited and unprincipled charlatans in British politics?