Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Case for Dr Cable.

Dr Vince Cable is facing a really tough 'sell' persuading the people (or at least those who are prepared to even give him a hearing) that our coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats have not reneged on a pre-election promise over student fees. But I've listened to our great 'twinkletoes' business secretary make his case, and I reckon he makes a fair point. As my witness, I need to look at some of the things I said during the General Election campaign.

The only actual 'pledge' I signed related to Equitable Life, and I reckon that promise is just about being delivered. I accept that not everyone would agree. But I also said that no universal social benefits would be cut, and that I did not think there was any reason to raise taxes to deal with the deficit. Well, since then we've had changes to child benefit and VAT - though I did not rule our any tax increase, something a candidate shouldn't do. Whatever, I do not think I broke any promises, for much the same reason as Vince Cable didn't.

The Conservatives lost the General Election, as did the Liberal Democrats, and Labour. None of us won from the voters sufficient support to form a Government charged with implementing a manifesto. There was an imperative to negotiate a cross-party agreement of some sort - and the numbers meant that this responsibility fell to the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. The two parties had to discuss every policy area to agree a 'Programme for Government' - rather than the usual process of implementing a 'manifesto' as the 'programme for government'. The proposal to raise inheritance tax thresholds was dropped, CGT rules have been changed, a referendum on the voting system is taking place, etc. etc.. I didn't promise any of these things, and would have been deeply embarrassed if we had implemented them had we actually won the election.

That's the thing about PR, and why I'm not in favour of it. It's much more likely to lead to coalition government, which can only be formed when the parties to it compromise on what they told the voters before the election, and agree a programme for government which has not been put before the voters at all. Anyway, over the last few months, I've taken to Dr Vince Cable. Like Danny Alexander, and David Laws, he's a tough nut, who's prepared to stand his ground - just the sort of partner you need when the going gets tough. But he's still got a major persuasion battle on his hands.

1 comment:

Charlie Butler said...

I think the problem is that this was set out as a personal pledge - viz. pictures of Clegg and others with large cards reading "I PLEDGE TO VOTE AGAINST ANY INCREASE IN FEES IN THE NEXT PARLIAMENT" - rather than as a promise that, should the LibDems form a government (which no one, including them, thought possible) they would refrain from doing so. The anger isn't against the party as a whole, so much as against every individual MP, including Cable, each of whom gave his or her word not to do what they are now so enthusiastically doing.