Another damp declaration of war from Vince Cable
It's all very well keeping wounded Lib-Dems in the Cabinet, but don't expect them to do well in battle writes Harry Cole from Westminster.
There was the whiff of good news this morning as the headlines claimed that the Business Secretary Vince Cable was ready to change the law to crack down on the UK’s increasingly militant trade union movement. But the warning bells should have started ringing the second he claimed to be “declaring war” on anything.
Cable has gone from the darling of the Left and the soothsayer of the financial world, to a liability as unpredictable as a drunken ex at a wedding.
The argument goes that David Cameron enjoys seeing the potential applecart-upsetters in his cabinet neutered and humiliated, but ultimately kept in their job. This would explain the “Save Huhne” debate that apparently won the day before the parliamentary recess. Watching poor old Vince Cable today, it’s easy to see why this option is appealing. But, ultimately, it’s flawed.
Since his fall from grace before Christmas, when he was secretly recorded “declaring war on Murdoch” by two pretty ladies from The Telegraph and stripped of much of his power as a result, the Business Secretary has looked like a man sucking a wasp.
Still, once seen as a threat to the coalition, now, in his weakened state, he gets all the good jobs.
Dispatched to the seaside today to address the GMB union, the once loved Saint Vince was booed and heckled as he told it like it is.
Except that he didn’t. The speech did not live up to the hype. He told the assorted collection of miserable, deluded old timers, still waiting for the great leap forward to socialism, that:
“We are undoubtedly entering a difficult period. Cool heads will be required all round. Despite occasional blips, I know that strike levels remain historically low, especially in the private sector. On that basis, and assuming this pattern continues, the case for changing strike law is not compelling. However, should the position change, and should strikes impose serious damage to our economic and social fabric, the pressure on us to act would ratchet up. That is something which both you, and certainly I, would wish to avoid.”
Like his supposed war on Rupert Murdoch, the alleged “war” briefed out to the press this morning turned out to be nothing more than a skirmish with a water pistol.
Scared to be seen as too close to his traditionally anti-union coalition partners, Cable has tried to have it both ways. The Lib Dems’ dire spin machine woke up shortly afterwards proclaiming how much the party loved the unions and how they can help growth. Like most assertions from the Liberal Democrats, the press release was an evidence free zone.
If the government really wants to crack down on the unions which, far from creating growth, have a stranglehold on the nation’s recovery, then they should just say as much instead of sending out the likes of Vince Cable to make a complete hash of things.
It’s all very well keeping these weaklings in government to afford a bit of cover back at base, but don’t put wounded soldiers in the front line of a war and expect them to put up a credible fight.
Harry Cole is a writer and journalist and the news editor for the Guido Fawkes blog. He also writes for Total Politics Magazine.
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