Yellow is blue, new is old, the Equalities Minister is a gaybasher, and according to Vince Cable’s keynote speech at the Liberal Democrat conference this week, right is left. Everyone expected the first peacetime coalition government for eighty years to bend the rules and turn things upside somewhat, but Vince Cable’s call to take up arms against the running dogs of Capitalism was still-to coin a phrase-unexpectedly out of left field.
Faithful readers will know that NewsJack loves nothing better than a politician who sticks to his guns and refuses to toe the line, and Vince Cable is a political shitstirrer par excellence. With Labour off duty while it selects a new leader it seems that the government’s chief critics has been one of its own members. Vince Cable has a curious position within the coalition: originally an advisor to ministers in the old Labour governments of the 1970s, he clearly feels ill at ease joining forces with the Tories. Like a ‘special’ boy who goes round looking up women’s skirts because he knows that he can get away with it, Cable has been taking full advantage of the fact that the coalition can’t really do with him, but can’t do without him either.
And what a speech it was. He touted himself as a champion of the oppressed masses against the “spivs and gamblers of the city” and promised to bring his iron fist crashing down on banks that pay excessive bonuses. I half expected red hammer and sickle banners to fall over the top of the Lib Dem dove in the background of the stage, with The Internacionale playing as he tore off an exquisitely tailored jacket to reveal his Soviet-era boiler suit underneath.
There was, though, something transparently desperate about his speech. Carefully stage-managed (Cameron’s blessing sought beforehand and choice exerpts distributed the night before to waiting journalists) it was clearly an attempt to be something he no longer is. Like a forty-something who still cakes on several inches of slap and squeezes herself into the dress that hasn’t fit for decades in an attempt to convince herself her looks aren’t fading, Cable’s speech was a rather sad attempt by the Lib Dems to re-claim the mantle of progressivism that it forfeited this May and can never get back.