The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

Cable, So Able?

Posted by The Futility Monster on June 28, 2009 @ 19:41

Somehow the glasses make this picture even better...

Somehow the glasses make this picture even better...

What makes being a politico so difficult is how hard it is to be honest with the mass public. A certain sense of this is understandable. Half the time journalists ask questions which are impossible to answer directly, because they’re obviously designed to make a fool of you.

But other times, politicians take this natural wariness (cynicism?) of what journalists are up to and extend it to ridiculous proportions. Gordon Brown is a fine example of this. But I think I’ve done enough of a hatchet job on him lately.

Instead I’m going to turn my attention to a certain Mr Cable. Yes – that prophet of modern politics, the man who correctly predicted the housing bubble, the overleveraging of debt on business, and, in my humble opinion, has consistently made the right call on what the best response should be to the financial crisis that has been with us for almost two years now.

He has become something of a go-to man for the media, whenever they’re in need of a bit of rent-a-quote to stand up a reasoned critique of a government policy, in stark contrast to when George Osborne is wheeled out… with normally something straight from the “How To Win Elections” PR guidebook. In other words – it sounds good, and is specifically targeted at this 800,000 key people who live in the only constituencies that matter (more on that some other time), but I always get the sense there’s something missing.

This morning, Vince Cable was on The Andrew Marr show talking about the thorny issue of public spending: you know, the one that’s been boring us to tears for the past few weeks over 10% this, 10% that.

Us Lib Dems often have a little more freedom to talk about what we want. If the opposition is being unkind that’ll be because they say we’ll never get in power – so it doesn’t matter what we say. Touché. But, at the same time, as we saw over the Gurkhas issue – if enough people are prepared to stand for what is right – the Lib Dems can indeed have influence.

And since we now have the luxury of a figure with the reputation of Vince Cable, we have to spend it wisely. Unfortunately, this will probably mean the electorate is provided with yet another politician who steps back from the brink of telling the truth.

He talked today about cutting ID cards, the NHS IT project, even Trident. All very good. But I think in his heart of hearts he will know that it’s just not enough. Not with the ageing population and the huge and rising costs of not just public sector pensions but the state pension too.

Everyone knows the economy is well and truly buggered if current spending and borrowing continues. A spending slash is required at some point. Maybe not next year – as to do so would significantly undermine the tentative steps towards recovery. But the following year and then for a very long time beyond… we’re going to have to pay off the debt somehow.

But to talk in such stark terms, that health, education, defence, transport… even welfare benefits… are going to have to be pegged back significantly. That’s political suicide.

To sum up: on the one hand, you have a public that complains about their politicians not being able to give them the truth. But, do you think for one second that the public would reward a politician talking as if the world was about to end, and that you really do need to pay more taxes – oh, and by the way, we’ll be cutting your benefits and public spending?

Of course not.

Unfortunately, I don’t think even the Able Mr Cable can square this particular circle.

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