Business secretary Vince Cable appears to be doing everything in his power to alienate himself from everyone in well,.. business. Not the best position for someone in his post to find himself.
Amid reports of a speech at the Lib Dem conference that will offer scathing criticism of capitalism alongside tax avoidance and evasion, Cable has had to defend himself and assert that he is pro business.
According to some commentators Cable has revealed himself as some kind of Marxist nostalgic yearning for the heady days of the seventies when waving a red flag and demanding state ownership of the means of production was quite trendy.
In fact Cable is no more a Marxist than Gordon Gekko, but he has not been particularly smart in articulating his view.
Cable does not argue for the abolition of capitalism. But he does believe it’s not perfect and that it fails deliver solutions to all questions. This is not an unreasonable view though Cable has couched it in some particularly emotional language, just as many commentators have pointed out.
As for the view of taxpayers well, this is just plain clumsey. For the sake of a party membership that looks as if it’s parting company with its leadership Cable has offered a message about everyone paying their fair dues in tax.
However, he has chosen to conflate avoidance with evasion and colour them both with the same moral repugnance.
The effect is to reinforce a stereotype that anyone making decent money is involved in either avoidance or evasion. And that avoidance must be the same as evasion – a message aimed at pleasing the party foot soldiers – and abandons the idea of setting out a business agenda that is going to get companies moving and tax revenues growing as well blurring the lines between two very different things. We shouldn’t be surprised by this. Cable is the latest in a long line of politicians who, for political campaign reasons, has ignored or deliberately obscured the differences.
I suspect the big issue for Cable is the loss of his economic policy in the negotiations for coalition government. The spending cuts are coming at a much faster rate than Cable could have endorsed before the election and now the economy does not look as if it will sustain the small recovery it managed through the first half of this year. He must be missing the old days of opposition. That policy and position was, of course, part of what earned Cable the acclaim that he accrued before the days of coalition. Perhaps he’s missing the love,but he’ll need a more sophisticated approach if he wants it back. One of the first things he’ll need is a business community that feels like he’s on their side. A little at least.
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