by James Kirkup
Thursday, 19
November 2020

Whatever happened to Sir Vince Cable?

He should be on a victory tour, but instead he's gone off in a different direction
by James Kirkup
Sir Vince should be on a victory tour, but instead he’s gone off in a different direction

This should be Vince Cable’s time. Quite often these days when talking to people in government and politics about some bit of policy or other, I find myself thinking about Dr Cable and how he pre-empted so many of today’s political debates.

Levelling up regions left behind in the UK economy? Industrial strategy where the state takes a more active role in markets?  Corporate governance reform to answer worries about British capitalism’s tendency to encourage short-termism and under-investment? None of these things were invented by Cummings-Johnson Tories, nor by Timothy-May, nor even by Ed Miliband.

No, Vince Cable got there first, to no great avail. Close observers of the Coalition government will recall that when Cable advocated many of the policies and ideas that Red Wall Tories now consider their own, his Tory partners dismissed him as a yellow-rosetted commie.

So Cable, rarely accused of modesty, should today be on a victory tour, celebrated as the man whose ideas could just heal our economic and social woes.

But he’s not. He’s gone off in rather a different direction. Back in April, he decided, for no obvious reason, to celebrate the “positives” in Lenin’s rule over Russia, by which he probably didn’t include all those dead people and the rejection of democracy.

And now he’s written a book, with the apparent aim of explaining how to avert a war between China and the West. Which sounds good, but also like a gigantic straw man, because it appears Cable’s premise is that criticism of China for doing bad stuff is the same as wanting World War III.

Cable’s alternative to that war, it seems, is that anyone worried about, say, China’s abuse of Uighur Muslims just has to shrug and accept such things as the Chinese way, something that must be tolerated and even respected.

“China is far from being the only country, or the worst, when it comes to human rights abuses,” he writes, as if that makes the detention of a million people less egregious.

Worse, Cable helpfully explains that the Chinese concept of human rights is different to our dreadful Western conceptions, putting more emphasis on economic advancement and — I infer — less weight on petty stuff like voting and not being locked up and beaten for thinking the wrong things.

“In an ideal world, both sets of rights would be supported and advanced together,” Cable concludes, omitting to explain how on earth that can be done.

A decade ago, it was a crying shame that people didn’t listen more to Vince Cable; if he’d got more traction for his ideas in government, many bits of British life might be a little bit better today than they are.  But today, sadly, we have to hope that no-one listens to him now.

Join the discussion

  • Sounds like the Dr has gone bats**t crazy just like the rest of the Illiberal Undemocratic party.

  • …..our dreadful Western conceptions,……. petty stuff like voting and not being locked up and beaten for thinking the wrong things.”

    Don’t worry, the Law Society and our Government are working on getting rid of that petty stuff

  • At the end of the day the Chinese are simply more honest and rational to a fault when faced with socio political challenges than we are in the West. We have already forgotten but about five years ago Islamic activists tried to leverage the Uighur community in China against the Chinese State for the eventual independence of a Uighur state. There was even some footsy from Ankara playing the ethnic champion card through their secret agencies. And the push climaxed with a brutal mass knife attack at a crowded Chinese train station during the Chinese New Year rush, I think 60 people were killed about 300 injured.
    So you have this issue facing you are you are the PRC. What do you do? You eliminate the resource. Problem solved. We are doing the same thing in the West but we are moving slowly through education and generational change. Only time will tell who is right because failure means risking annihilation.

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