Posts Tagged ‘Vince Cable’
Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 28th November, 2012
Though many — perhaps too many — Brits rub their hands in glee that the UK is not part of the troubled eurozone, and therefore may sometimes benefit from currency fluctuations, only UKIP MEPs and other delusionists could relish the thought of the single currency’s collapse. “Europe”, as so many in Britain continue to refer to the Continent, as if we are somehow not part of it, is still the biggest single market for British goods and is likely to remain so for some time, despite the rise of the BRICs — Brazil, Russia, India and China. Moreover, those who would like us to become another Norway, being part of the European economic area but having no say in the rules and regulations that govern it, are positively unpatriotic, in my view. I was glad that Vicky Pryce, former Chief Economist at the Department of Trade and Industry and later working with Vince Cable at the Department of Business and Skills, stressed, at a Pizza and Politics put on by Islington Liberal Democrats this evening, that the UK is far better in than out when it comes to the EU. The author of a recently acclaimed book, Greekonomics*, she has since her departure from government employment become something of a guru on what is happening in Europe’s economy, with particular in relation to Greece, whence she originally hails. Indeed, she is forever popping up on the TV and radio as the one commentator who knows what she is talking about on the subject, yet does not slag off her compatriots as good-for-nothing lazy tax-dodgers. That is, alas, the image still in the minds of many Germans, for example, though they would do well to acknowledge just how well Germany has done out of the single currency — selling goods left, right and centre — even if they are now expected to bail out the declining European periphery. I was struck by Vicky’s comments about the possibility of the need for a debt write-off for Greece and possibly some others, as their debt levels are unsustainable and will only drive them further into the sloough of despond. I was reminded so strongly as she spoke of the Latin American debt crisis that I used to commentate on for the BBC in the late 1980s. I asked her whether she could ever envisage Britain during the euro — as Peter Mandelson, amongst others, have suggested. She was cautious about the possibility — more so than myself — but she didn’t rule it out completely.
* Biteback Publishing
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: EU, euro, eurozone, Germany, Greece, Greekonomics, Islington Liberal Democrats, Peter Mandelson, single currency, Vicky Pryce, Vince Cable | 1 Comment »
Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 2nd September, 2012
Today’s papers and the blogosphere are full of speculation about whether Nick Clegg will or will not face a leadership challenge from within the Liberal Democrats before the next General Election. This is a predictable topic in the run-up to the party’s conference due to be held in Brighton later this month, but the Deputy Prime Minister has been coming under heavier fire than might be expected, with some activists even calling for him to go now and to be replaced by Vince Cable. Now had Vince Cable stood in the last leadership election I would almost certainly have voted for him, and he would quite likely have won. But he was reluctant to put himself forward because of fears he would be considered too old, given the mauling poor Ming Campbell got in the Press on that score. I know Vince sometimes regrets his decision and were an opening to arise he might well put himself forward this time. But I can’t help feeling that people are misreading the situation when they try to analyse why the LibDems have slumped in the opinion polls and ponder what can be done to reverse that trend. It seems to be a classic case of wanting to shoot the messenger rather than critically examining the message. It’s not the man at the top who is the problem, though he is facing an extraordinary amount of flak. Rather, voters don’t really know what the Liberal Democrats stand for anymore, which is why only the core support of around 10 per cent of electors is standing by us. To build on that afresh we need not only differentiation from the Tories but also a clear statement of what Liberal Democrats believe, as well as an exposition of how those beliefs are being put it into practice at local, regional and national levels. So the top priority is to get the message right. Nick Clegg has the communication skills to put it across as long as he has the right script. But the script itself is what is important, whoever takes the Liberal Democrats into the general electon and beyond.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Liberal Democrats, Ming Campbell, Nick Clegg, Vince Cable | 3 Comments »
Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 29th June, 2012
One good aspect of Britain’s political system is that when MPs become Ministers they retain their seats in the House of Commons as well as their constituency responsibilities. That is particularly important for Liberal Democrats, many of whom got into Parliament because they made their mark as community champions. So even if their Ministerial diaries are bursting at the seams, they must carve out time to be among the people who elected them. This is very noticeable in London, where five of the seven LibDem MPs are Ministers (and a sixth, Simon Hughes, is deputy leader of the Party). And as government is based in London, their constituents expect to continue to see a lot of them, however important their portfolio. This is some ways unfortunate for someone like Vince Cable, whose ministerial responsibilities at the Department of Business, Industry and Skills take him not only all round the United Kingdom but also on frequent overseas trips, drumming up orders and investment. Yet the voters of Twickenham, Vince’s seat, are lucky, as he is regularly available at his constituency surgeries, and sometimes — like tonight — is the star of a Q&A session organised by the Twickenham and Richmond local party. This evening an audience made up mainly of party members — including me — had the pleasure of watching Vince field almost 20 varied questions, ranging from Trident replacement to an EU referendum. It was a tour de force, and he was not afraid to say in a couple of instances that the subject was out of his area of activities or expertise (too many politicians, when asked a question on a subject they know nothing about just spout whatever comes into their head; that is fatal, as usually the questioner knows more about the subject than they do, and will be only too happy to point out the hapless politico’s ignorance). This evening’s event was held at the big Baptist Church in Teddington, scene of many a Liberal Democrat meeting and community gathering. It was a pity there was no coffee or other light refreshment available, so that people could mingle afterwards. Instead, we wandered off into the still light night to reflect on what Vince had said.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Liberal Democrats, Simon Hughes, Teddington, Twickenham, Vince Cable | 1 Comment »
Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 27th April, 2012
A while back, the Liberal Democrats established a mentoring scheme to help develop promising potential young politicians, especially from black and minority ethnicities and it was good to see that in action today when the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, came to Primrose Hill in Camden to speak in support of a young man he has been mentoring, Chris Richards, who is both the LibDem GLA candidate for the constituency of Barnet & Camden and on the city-wide list, as well as fighting the marginal Primrose Hill ward seat in a Camden Council by-election. Vince also took questions from an audience made up of party activists, business people and lobbyists and representatives of both the main local newspapers. Not surprisingly, there was quite a lot of focus on the High Speed rail-link proposals, as many Camden residents are concerned about the likely impact of current plans on the area around Euston. But Vince spoke well in favour of the principle of High Speed rail as a key element in spreading prosperity round the country; it’s the nitty-gritty of the routes that has to be sorted out, listening carefully to residents’ concerns. Most of the rest of the discussion was about financial and other help for small and medium-sized businesses, especially in start-ups. Chris Richards himself, through his work with the Institute of Engineering and Technology, is no slouch on such issues and of course Vince is a star. He is the party’s greatest public asset and it is commendable that he is managing to squeeze in campaigning activities in the run-up to the 3 May election, not only for his mentoree but for other candidates and councils around the UK in parallel with his busy government portfolio.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Barnet and Camden, Camden, Chris Richards, GLA, high speed rail, Primrose Hill, Vince Cable | Leave a Comment »
Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 5th March, 2012
Islington Liberal Democrats have a tradition of letting members chew over what upcoming federal conferences are going to discuss and this evening those of us who attended a Pizza and Politics in Barnsbury had the opportunity to talk through the agenda with the Chair of Federal Conference Committee, Andrew Wiseman, who now lives in the borough. There is no motion at conference about the controversial NHS Reforms (though that doesn’t mean someone won’t dream up a credible emergency motion, and the subject is bound to be hotly debated on the fringe). But the very first item on Andrew’s list of conference topics sparked maybe more emotions than he had imagined: the government’s proposed ‘mansion tax’ of an annual levy of 1% on properties worth over £2million pounds. This was an idea originally launched by Vince Cable (though at the £1million level), but many people in London were quick to point out that this would be a form of taxation that would essentially clobber the residents of central London and parts of the South East, many of whom may well not enjoy the sort of income necessary to pay the mansion tax. I have certainly never been persuaded by the idea, especially if, as some Tories argue, it would be introduced at the same time as reducing the 50p top rate of tax. Anyway, that was not the only issue discussed in Islington this evening. Our host Jeremy Hargreaves has originated a motion on Islinton’s behalf (and with the backing of the Liberal Democrat European Group — LDEG – and some MEPs) which would essentially reaffirm the Party’s belief in the necessity for Britain to be at the heart of the EU, even if that institution required certain reforms. As I commented, I feel the Liberal Democrats now have a golden opportunity to prove our credentials as the pro-European party in Britain, with the Tories seemingly ever more hostile and Labour being ambiguous in a most opportunistic fashion — as Labour is about so much these days, of course.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Andrew Wiseman, Barnsbury, Islington, Islington Liberal Democrats, Jeremy Hargreaves, LDEG, Liberal Democrat Euopean Group, Liberal Democrats, mansion tax, NHS reforms, Vince Cable | Leave a Comment »
Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 17th February, 2012
Since Matthew Oakeshott stood down as the Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman in the House of Lords — almost exactly a year ago — he has enjoyed the luxury of saying exactly what he thinks about the way the Coalition government is approaching the ongoing financial and economic crisis, not least regarding the shortcomings of the Project Merlin approach to banks which have not been lending enough to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which would be a key element in any sustainable recovery. He has thus attracted a great deal of media attention. In fact, it has been rather useful for the LibDems to have Matthew as an ‘insider-outsider’, with a proven track record in investment management in the City (particularly relating to property), as he is able to speak out about issues in a way that no LibDem Minister could. Matthew comes from the Social Democrat branch of the Liberal Democrat family and still holds his one-time boss and mentor, the late Roy Jenkins, in high regard. He is an enthusiastic supporter of Vince Cable’s proposed ‘mansion tax’ (a tax on homes worth more than £2 million pounds) as a step in the direction of moving taxation away solely from earned income towards wealth. Indeed, a substantial chunk of his speech at tonight’s dinner of the Gladstone Club, at the National Liberal Club, was about taxation, as well as broader financial and economic issues. He said he was a supporter of the Coalition Agreement, but he does not think it has been totally adhered to. And he was very pleased about the work of the Vickers Commission on Banking, but obviously feels more needs to be implemented. Matthew is an ardent European, but interestingly told the Gladstone Club dinner that he thought that Greece ought to be allowed to leave the eurozone and then devalue.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: eurozone, Gladstone Club, Greece, Liberal Democrats, mansion tax, Matthew Oakeshott, National Liberal Club, Project Merlin, Roy Jenkins, Vickers Commission, Vince Cable | Leave a Comment »
Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 11th December, 2011
This Sunday is traditionally the time when Liberal Democrats in London stop writing Focus leaflets and do a bit of festive socialising as a reward for working hard all year round. And today the parties did indeed take place — I attended a lunch put on in Barnes by the local branch, then a mulled wine and mince party in Hornsey — but the conversation at both was highly political. This is not just because two elections are due to take place next Thursday: the parliamentary contest in Feltham and Heston (where I ran into Ken Livingstone and a posse of Labour MPs, including my local MP Jim Fitzpatrick, while I was out delivering yesterday) and a double local council by-election in the Coombe Vale ward of Kingston borough. Most LibDem members, including me, are furious at the way David Cameron mishandled the Brussels EU Summit, pandering to his Eurosceptics but marginalising Britain in the process. The Tory Little Emglanders will doubtless cheer him to the rafters when he addresses the House of Commons tomorrow, but I hope LibDem MPs will blow him a giant raspberry. Certainly the comments from Nick Clegg, Vince Cable, Lord (Paddy) Ashdown and others have been pretty strong, as have the criticisms from the UK LibDem MEPs, most significantly Sharon Bowles. At the Barnes event this lunchtime, Susan Kramer – until 2010 the local MP and now a highly valued member of the House of Lords (as well as being President-elect of London Liberal Democrats) — gave an excellent short summary of what happened at the summit and its possible consequences. In Hornsey, local MP and Home Office junior Minister Lynne Featherstone preferred to concentrate more on the very real ‘wins’ on equality issues which the LibDems have managed to obtain since going into government. But most of us will be going to bed tonight thinking more of the big losses to Britain’s standing in the world that our misguided Conservative Prime Minister has inflicted on us.
[Photo shows blogger Mark Pack, Lynne Featherstone MP, Enfeld and Haringey GLA candidate Dawn Barnes and JF]
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Barnes, Coombe Vale, David Cameron, Dawn Barnes, Enfield and Haringey, EU, Feltham and Heston, Hornsey, Jim Fitzpatrick, Ken Livingstone, Kingston, London Liberal Democrats, Lynne Featherstone, Mark Pack, Nick Clegg, Paddy Ashdown, Sharon Bowles, Susan Kramer, Vince Cable | Leave a Comment »
Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 24th August, 2011
If you have a social event lined up with a top rank political speaker and then suddenly a council by-election is called, what should you do? Camden LibDems provided the answer this evening when they moved the speaker event with Lord Clement-Jones from its original venue to the house of the candidate in the said by-election, Martin Hay, so at least some of the guests could come on after campaigning. The by-election is in Highgate and Martin is the only candidate standing who actually lives in the ward. He and his wife put on a wonderful spread of smoked salmon, French cheeses and extremely good wine, while Tim regaled us with tales of being a backbench member of the House of Lords. Of course he does not agree with everything the Government is doing — no Liberal Democrat does — but that is life within a Coalition, where you only get some of what you want. Interestingly, Tim said that he thought students would come to realise that they are actually going to better off under the new system of post-graduation payments than they are under the one set up by Labour. But there is no denying it was a mistake to persuade PPCs to make the pledge to scrap tuition fees, which Vince Cable, for one, had declared unsustainable. Tim understands some of what he called ths social angst at present, and he is not alone amongst LibDem peers in feeling the current cuts are maybe too much too fast. In good LibDem fashion he would have preferred something somewhere between what George Osborne has demanded and what Labour would have done had they been returned to power. But he was buoyed by the latest ICM poll just out which puts the party up at 17% (Tories 37%, Labour 36%), which is a much rosier picture thn YouGov and others have been painting.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Camden Liberal Democrats, George Osborne, Highgate, ICM poll, Martin Hay, Tim Clement-Jones, Vince Cable, YouGov | Leave a Comment »
Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 29th July, 2011
When Vince Cable launched his plan for a ‘mansion tax’ on homes worth more than £1 million, there were howls of dismay from LibDem activists in places such as Richmond Park and Kensington & Chelsea, where even quite modest dwellings are now worth well in excess of a million, thanks to London’s absurdly over-priced property market. There was then talk of a £2 million threshold instead, but the scheme was still unpopular and some Liberal Democrat party members actually resigned in protest. However, the LibDem Deputy Leader, Simon Hughes, last night unveiled at a Lewisham LibDems supper an intriguing variation which has gone to his colleagues in government for consideration: a Mansion Tax for non-doms, inlcuding oligarchs from the former Soviet Union — billionaires whose hunger for prime London property has been a major factor in house price escalation. Boris Johnson, London’s Tory Mayor, will doubtless scoff at the proposal, saying it will drive the super-rich foreigners away. But for the super-rich the ‘pain’ will be minimal, whereas the government’s coffers will get a useful boost and UK residents who happen to live in what is now a very expensive part of town will not be ‘fined’ for doing so.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Boris Johnson, former Soviet Union, Kensington & Chelsea, Lewisham Liberal Democrats, Liberal Democrats, oligarchs, Richmond Park, Simon Hughes, Vince Cable | 1 Comment »