Vince Is Vince
Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 14th April, 2011
Business Secretary Vince Cable hit the headlines this afternoon by criticising Prime Minister David Cameron’s new line on immigration. Though Mr Cameron was trying to make the distinction between ‘good’ (limited) immigration and ‘mass’ immigration, Vince is right that this Tory rhetoric can be misconstrued and be seen to be pandering to the far right. Undoubtedly the Conservatives are keen to stop a swing from them to UKIP, even more than they are worried about losing votes to the BNP (who often seem to do better from disenchanted Labour voters). But Cameron is treading on thin ice. Besides, Vince makes an important point: that immigrants from beyond the EU have made and will continue to make a vital contribution to Britain’s economy and potential growth. Of course that doesn’t mean we should have a completely Open Door policy, but it should not be as restrictive as the Prime Minister was implying either. In the meantime, Vince Cable has once again shown himself to be the strong voice of Liberal reason — and he has become just about as close as we have to a political national treasure. Some of his LibDem Cabinet colleagues may wish to excuse some of his comments to their Tory colleagues on the grounds that ‘Vince is Vince’, and therefore something of a law to himself. But he is not just a maverick or even a maverick at all. He is someone who has won great respect and who is listened to, including by many people who normally have little interest in politics. Moreover, at a time when the LibDems as a party and party leader Nick Clegg are (usually unfairly) being treated as whipping-boys by Labour and the media, it is important to have someone like Vince who shows the public (and the House of Commons) that there is a vibrant Liberal Democrat presence within government and one which is not afraid to speak out when the larger partner in the Coalition says or promotes illiberal or unwise things.