Friday, 24 September 2010

Cable’s excuses should make interesting history

IS it just me getting older, or does the present really move more and more rapidly into history?
The Labour Party had not yet chosen its future direction before the shelves were groaning with self-justifying tomes laying bare the inner secrets of the New Labour Project.
Let’s hope we don’t have to wait long for the present government to be history.
For the publication of the diaries that will reveal the rivalries, hatreds and failures at its core.
When that happens, surely the most interesting will be those of Vince Cable.
It will be fascinating to learn how a man whose speeches and public statements are mostly so sound can reconcile himself to a role in such a radical government. One with principles and ideals so radically unlike his own.
How a man who rightly speaks out against “short-term investors looking for a speculative killing”, who rightly condemns big bankers’ bonuses, can bring himself to serve in a government committed to punishing ordinary people for the bankers’ sins.
He will say that as business secretary he is in a position to counter the rigging of markets, to battle for the rights and survival of small businesses against the aggression of the corporate big beasts.
He may nod in agreement with one carefully anonymous “senior Lib Dem” who said this week: “Capitalism left to its own devices just creates monopolies which work against the interests of consumers and inflict severe damage on the wider economy.”
And he may say he’s in his job to try to ensure capitalism isn’t left to its own devices.
But the bottom line is that by being in coalition with the Tories, he and his party are enabling the swinging of the Tory axe.
The rapid and savage dismantling of the state education system.
The demolition of local government as a provider of vital services.
The giving away of the family silver – to use Harold Macmillan’s resonant phrase – to the very capitalists Cable would like to control.
As if cash-driven private enterprise were somehow more controllable than the employees of a democratically elected council.
We’ve heard a lot since May, and we’ve heard it a lot this conference week, that the LibDems had “no alternative” to joining the coalition.
Of course they had a choice. They still have one.
I can understand that they might not have wanted to prop up the ailing remnants of a Gordon Brown government.
It would certainly have been a difficult act to pull off. And I can understand that some among the Labour leadership itself had no desire for a Lib-Lab pact.
For Labour, in fact, a (hopefully short) period in opposition to purge themselves and pick a new leader was probably the best course open.
For the LibDems the proper, most honourable, thing to do would have been to tell Cameron and his crew: “Fine. Form a minority government. Just don’t count on our support to push through cuts or measures we don’t approve of.”
Sadly, it seems the allure of power – even partial, largely illusory power – proved stronger.
Another thing we heard a lot was the argument that “the markets” demanded strong government.
So when did “the markets” – i.e. unfettered capitalism – take precedence in a supposed democracy over the electorate?
Most of whom didn’t vote for a neo-Thatcherite asset-stripping of the nation.
Nick Clegg I think I understand. He is Cameron-lite, a natural ally of a similarly tailored public-school chum. I’m sure he feels right at home playing governments.
Cable’s involvement is harder to fathom.
Which is why, self-justifying and probably smug as they will no doubt be, his diaries or memoirs will surely cast light on the whole present grubby business.
I just hope he’s in a position to release them soon.


LABOUR will announce tomorrow the name of its new leader. Hopefully, the next prime minister.
Boy, do I hope the party in its collective wisdom has made the right choice.
I hope it’s Ed Miliband. I think.
It’s a flaw in democracy that you can never tell quite what a leader will be like in power until you’ve put them there. For now we can only judge on what we’ve seen or heard so far.
David Miliband, on the face of it, might be the man most likely to lure voters away from the ConDem experiment. But do we really want Blair II?
Brother Ed is certainly not the left-winger the shallow media would have you believe. But he might be the best available compromise between sound principles and electability.


THE blackberries were a little late this year, but we’ve certainly got a fine crop now.
The most striking thing about this autumn so far, though, has been the amazing proliferation of wild fungi.
My field guide tells me parasol mushrooms are uncommon. Not round here, they’re not. Not right now. They’ve even sprung up on the verge in Tuddenham Road.
I’ve never seen so many. And I’ve never tasted better.
Just make sure, if you’re thinking of enjoying this bounty of nature, that you know exactly what you’re picking. It can be the difference between a good meal and a bad death.

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