Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Vince gives it large

In what sometimes qualifies as the Very Silly party of British politics, Vince Cable is a beacon of sanity not just within the Liberal Democrats but in British politics generally. The cheeky chappie told Britain to confront its 'national obsession with property' and stop using homes as 'gambling chips'.

The former economist urged the Government to resist 'propping up' the market so that prices could 'fall back to a sensible level which makes housing affordable to ordinary families.' Politicians had to find a new, more honest language better suited to times of economic hardship.

Ministers should avoid 'socialising losses' and financiers rattling their begging bowls and demanding help from taxpayers should be sent packing. In a sense that is what the federal authorities have done with Lehman Brothers, deciding that the US taxpayers should not pay for the mistakes of its senior management.

Vince and Nick Clegg also managed to get their tax cutting package through the conference. Unfortunately it focuses on the totem of cutting the standard rate, when raising allowances to take the less well off out of tax altogether might be more sensible. Higher rate taxpayers, an increasing number of people, may not yet have realised that they would be paying more because of a cut in pensions tax relief.

Interesting that Vince's endorsement of Nick Clegg was somewhat lukewarm. Perhaps the ballroom dancing maestro feels that he may yet shimmy into view as Lib Dem leader while Clegg fends off charges that he is 'Cameron lite'.

Economic and political events elsewhere have also take the sheen off the Lib Dems conference. No one is shouting: 'Global crisis. Send for Nick Clegg.' But they could send for Vince Cable and should have listened to his warnings in the past.

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