Faulty Cable

The Business Secretary certainly looks like Vince Cable, but he's stopped sounding like him.

The Business Secretary certainly looks like Vince Cable, but he’s stopped sounding like him.

The Business Secretary certainly looks like Vince Cable, but he’s stopped sounding like him.

You remember Vince Cable. The Liberal Democrat economic spokesperson who was unstinting and incisive in his critique of the banks. A voice of reason throughout the credit crisis. A man who was respected across the political divide for speaking his mind and above all, making sense.

We need more people like that in government, and particularly in the business department. Unfortunately, everything Cable’s said recently has been politican-speak: empty waffle designed to make you switch off so you won’t notice the lack of meaning behind the words.

Take this quote from yesterday about the planned scrapping of regional development agencies and launch of so-called local enterprise partnerships. Cable said: ‘We want a structure that reflects the genuine interests and commitment of enterprise, local councils and other stakeholders like universities and colleges. Local Enterprise Partnerships will provide that vision and then take on the task of renewing local economies and tackling local barriers to growth.’

Fine-sounding words, if you don’t think about them. Impossible to disagree with – but essentially meaningless. What it all boils down to is the biggest raid on the business department in living memory and the dismantling of the support structure for businesses around the country (we’ll have more on this next week).

Or what about his comments on the car industry, as reported by the Press Association. Cable wants ‘to give the automotive industry a stable business environment to capitalise on further opportunities’ by ‘creating a more supportive tax environment, freeing up credit through the banking system, reducing regulation and focusing on training and apprenticeships’.

Let’s decode this. Creating a more supportive tax environment means, apparently, raising taxes. (The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders says the VAT rise will add £300 to the cost of the average car, ‘potentially impacting on private buyers’ confidence and demand’.) Freeing up credit through the banking system implies a continuation of the Enterprise Finance Guarantee scheme introduced by the last government (the Chancellor has scrapped his predecessor’s planned Credit Adjudication Service that would have tried to force banks to lend – something Cable used to be in favour of). Reducing regulation would be more than welcome, but ‘focusing on training and apprenticeships’? Focusing? Again, empty language, promising nothing.

Ok, Cable may have a bad speech writer. But that doesn’t exonerate him for his U-turn on the most important question facing the economy. Before the election he argued passionately that making severe cuts before growth was entrenched would endanger the recovery. Now, evidently, he doesn’t agree with his former self. Before May 7, he was never afraid to appeal to people’s intelligence. Now, by trying to pretend there is no contradiction between his past and present positions, he is insulting it.

There’s only one explanation for this transformation the Business Secretary has undergone since joining the Cabinet. Despite the astonishing physical resemblance, it simply can’t be the same person.

Will the real Vince Cable please stand up.

Nick Britton

Lexus Ernser

Nick was the Managing Editor for growthbusiness.co.uk when it was owned by Vitesse Media, before moving on to become Head of Investment Group and Editor at What Investment and thence to Head of Intermediary...

Related Topics

Tech Jobs & Careers