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Cable rewarded as the voice of common sense

February 24, 2009

column-picture2It is not easy to turn on the news without seeing the Lib Dem Shadow Chancellor, Vince Cable MP, holding forth about something or other.

This last week, Vince has received two awards at the Channel 4 News political gongs: Opposition Politician of the Year – beating David Cameron and Ken Clarke among others – and an award for the most political impact over the last 12 months (voted by Channel 4 News viewers).

Essentially, this is because, whilst he was derided and mocked by the then Chancellor Gordon Brown, when (from as early as 2003) he was warning against the over-heated housing market and the consumer debt bubble, Vince has turned out to be right on a host of scores.

He was right about the need to nationalise Northern Rock and to slash Interest Rates, and he is right about the way forward for helping low and middle income families and small businesses.

If the truth be told, I have never been a fan of the Guardian journalist Martin Kettle, but as his column has it this week, with the help of people like Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrats are increasingly being listened to for talking sense on the social and economic problems facing the country.

Kettle evens suggests that it may be the Liberal Democrats who will replace the Labour Party as the progressive force in British politics if Labour implodes, as is likely, after they lose the next General Election.

One of a number of radical ideas coming from the Party at the moment is about how we use the commercial property that is becoming newly vacant in our high streets (such as the old Woolworths shops) as the recession takes hold.

Again, in the Guardian last week, Sarah Teather MP (Lib Dem spokesperson on Housing issues) was explaining our plans to facilitate the use of this kind of property as good quality temporary accommodation for people who are made homeless by the economic crisis.

Nick campaigning with Vince Cable MP on rising food prices

Nick campaigning with Vince Cable MP on rising food prices

Whilst it is important not to talk the economy down, we must also be realistic about its effect. For example, home repossessions rose 54% last year to 40,000. The Council of Mortgage Lenders estimates that there will be 75,000 next year.

We are also advocating a massive expansion in energy conservation measures, and new zero carbon social housing to help kick-start the construction industry.

What is crucial about the action that we take as a country to help our economy is that it must be based in the knowledge that just as human rights are indivisible, so (often) are social and economic problems.

We must have a joined-up approach to how we help people.  This is what the Lib Dems are trying to achieve in these difficult times. And, judging by the awards that Vince has scooped up in the last week, I am glad to say that it is beginning to be recognised.


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