Wednesday 22 September 2010

Calm down dear, it's just a conference speech.

Does anyone else feel as though the reaction to Vince Cable’s speech has been exaggerated?

Yes, he uses some hostile rhetoric – words like “spivs and gamblers”, “murky” and “rigged”. But they are just words.

Most of the outraged voices seem to assume these words will eventually translate into policy which is overtly hostile to capitalism.

But if you actually read the speech on paper, without having to hear a hall of Lib Dems clap at the sabre-rattling rhetoric, there is little in there to suggest Cable is going to implement heaps of policy which is massively damaging to big business or capitalism.

In fact he talks about helping business by prizing more credit out of banks, and even then not by force, but by “carrot and stick”.

That’s something that all three parties have wanted to do.

People who got all uppity about the “capitalism kills competition” line, didn’t seem so bothered when Cable said the more anodyne “competition is central to my pro-market, pro-business, agenda.”

In his piece for the Telegraph website Mark Littlewood got all hot under the collar and said he couldn’t understand why Downing Street had approved the speech.

It was approved – indeed the PM’s office said it was “relaxed” over the text – because there is nothing controversial in its substance, only in its rhetoric.

That Cable gave an uncontroversial speech that fooled some into thinking it was radical, however, does show he is still a canny operator.

Premature celebration

Notts MP Gloria De Piero was celebrating on Twitter this morning after the most recent YouGov poll showed Labour on level pegging with the Tories on 39%.

But as academic Philip Cowley from the University of Nottingham points out: “Not really whoo hoo”.

In 1979 the Labour opposition also pulled ahead in the polls a month after a May election, reminds Cowley, but were then out of power for 18 years.

The polls in the 2010 election, with their surprising fluctuations, caused more of an obsession with the figures than usual.

But Labour would do well to get over it. Polls only matter when there is an election in sight.

Tuesday 21 September 2010

Not soldiering on...

Lobbydog has been chatting with pals in the MoD and my goodness does the strategic defence and security review (SDSR) sound like it’s going to be messy.

The feeling is that there is no getting round the bloodbath it is going to become.

The debate has tended to focus on equipment and technology – fighter jets, aircraft carriers and trident for example.

But actually, I’m told, the UK just doesn’t have as many “toys” as it once did to cut back on.

Even if some of these big items are reined in, it is not going to stop there being a massive hit on personnel – which accounts for an immense chunk of expenditure.

The SDSR story may well become more about civil servants and service personnel being in the firing line.

Defector slams Clegg

You could hear the frustration in the voice of Robin Webber-Jones, the candidate who defected to Labour from the Liberal Democrats last night.

Webber-Jones fought for the Lib Dems against Stephen Dorrell MP in Charnwood in May, but chose to switch allegiance to Labour after becoming disillusioned with his former party’s role in the Coalition Government.

He said: “We stated at the General Election that we wouldn’t take money out of the economy and we talked a lot about aspiration, we also described the Alternative Vote as meagre – but now it’s all changed.

“There was a moment where it seemed getting hold of power was the only important thing for the Lib Dems, rather than actually thinking about what was being done.

“When the cuts are gone and the public services are decimated what then? The Government’s judgement call on the economy is simply wrong.

“If you listen to the likes of Vince Cable you can tell that he’s not comfortable with it either and there are other Lib Dems who don’t like the feeling that we’re going round wrecking people’s lives.

“I think Nick Clegg is looking after himself.”

I wonder how widely the view in that last line is shared at Lib Dem conference.

I'll give Clarke another shot when I beat Cameron...

First it was Blair having a dig at Ken Clarke, and now Labour leadership contender David Miliband has a go too.

Speaking with Lobbydog, the shadow foreign secretary dropped the following comment into the conversation.

"It seems Ken Clarke wasn't good enough for the Tories in the past, but if I become leader and knock out Cameron then maybe he can try his luck again."

Cheeky, and yet bold. It fits in with the rather silly spin war being waged between David and his brother Ed over who is more positive about winning the leadership.

Both have been putting out statements saying they are “increasingly confident” of victory. But I suppose here David takes it to the next level, saying as he does that he will not only win the leadership, but that he'll beat the PM too.