Yesterday’s speech, (full text here) by veteran politician Vince Cable, at the Liberal Democrat Conference in Liverpool, has been derided by many as being an attack on the very heart of British business, the banks and the basic freedoms of capitalism. ‘How dare he attack the very organisations he is supposed to be promoting in his role as business secretary in the coalition government?’ they have bleated loudly.
Well of course, journalists love nothing more than to cherry pick the juiciest words from a much broader message so they can get an easy headline, on this occasion, shocking readers with hints of Marxism etc. However, if you read the full transcript of the speech, the message could not have been further from the truth.
Mr Cable has never pulled his punches when giving his personal view of the state of the nation. Whether you like him, or not, he has become a refreshing change to the groomed and polished walking ‘soundbites’ that are our younger, over produced politicians.
What he has done in his speech, though, is outline the very things that have been going wrong in our society over the last couple of decades and spell out the harsh reality we are all going to be facing.
He has not attacked capitalism as a concept but has highlighted the abuse of the system by a growing number of greedy and arrogant individuals; free markets are a good thing but not when they are manipulated and abused to such an extent the chosen few dominate the majority.
He has not attacked the banks in any other way than they deserve to be attacked. No-one can deny their responsibility for the financial mess we are all experiencing and bankers should not be able to walk away and carry on as if nothing had ever happened. The rest of us have invested our hard earned tax billions saving their swaggering skins. It is plainly wrong when small businesses (the engine room of any recovery) should be starved of funding because of ridiculously high charges while the base rate is still at an all time low - there can be no acceptable excuses for the banks’ profiteering ways.
Students should not be leaving universities with the wrong degrees combined with an overwhelming student debt when our industry is crying out for the very best but cannot find them because our education system has been so dumbed down. We need the right kind of graduates for the growth and innovation that our industries require. We should not need to import that expertise from other countries.
After the public debates preceding May’s election, I had high hopes for the Lib Dems as a credible party of opposition. Once the coalition had been formed with the Tories, I found I had disappointment and doubts.
My belief in Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg’s arguments and motives started to fade, as like many others, I began to despair at what was increasingly looking like a sell out of sensible social policies just to gain a taste of power. That view didn’t change after Mr Clegg’s speech at the weekend attacking tax avoiders and benefits cheats - headline grabbing rhetoric with very little substance.
Just as I thought all had been lost, along comes good old Vince, looking more like an eccentric school teacher than a designer made politician.
The man spoke the truth, upset just about everyone, made me laugh and above all shared totally understandable, plain clear sense.
I think Nick Clegg must be envious of what was probably Vince’s best line of all:
“I must be doing something right”
Well, you certainly restored some hope in me!