Poor Vince Cable. He just can’t help but brim with joy about the economy. He’s often spotted skipping across Parliament square to the Business department, humming ‘Oh, Happy Day!’ under his breath at the latest set of GDP figures. George Osborne and Cable’s Tory colleagues are always having to tell Vince to calm down a bit: he doesn’t want to seem too complacent about the clouds lifting from the economy.
But even such a joyful Lib Dem as Dr Cable must have been a little dispirited to read that everyone has written his speech this morning up as an attempt to undermine George Osborne. ‘I think George Osborne’s comments the other day were spot on!’ he told the Today programme a few minutes ago, puzzled that anyone should infer anything else from a speech just two days after the Chancellor’s address in which he will warn against complacency on the economy. It’s not as though the Labour party likes to slip ‘complacency’ into conversation as often as possible, after all. Fortunately, no-one has yet tried to dent his joyful demeanour by also suggesting that perhaps he’s trying to undermine his own boss Nick Clegg, who on the same day said ‘the clouds are lifting’ and the ‘sinews’ of the economy were starting to grow again.
Cable told Radio 4:
‘I think George Osborne’s comments the other days were spot on. I think some of the reactions to the new over the last few weeks have sort of somehow suggest that we’re out of this dark, long tunnel and until we get very sustained investment, a commitment to industrial building up exports over a long period of time we will not have solved the problem, that’s the point I’m trying to emphasise.’
Perhaps the Business Secretary was so happy on Monday that he didn’t notice the very cautious terms in which the Chancellor couched his speech. Sure, George Osborne used it as an opportunity to say that his critics were wrong. But he also made very clear that this was only the start, not the finish line:
‘The economic collapse was even worse than we thought. Repairing it will take even longer than we hoped. But we held our nerve when many told us to abandon our plan. And as a result, thanks to the efforts and sacrifices of the British people, Britain is turning a corner. Many risks remain. These are still the early stages of recovery. But we mustn’t go back to square one. We mustn’t lose what the British people have achieved. This is a hard, difficult road we have been following. But it is the only way to deliver a sustained, lasting improvement in the living standards of the families of this country.’
Cable said his speech was aimed more at ‘some of the reactions to the news’ than George Osborne. But the effect of following a clouds-are-lifting speech, no matter how packed with caveats, with a be-careful speech is to suggest that the first speaker was getting a bit ahead of himself and needs to calm down. Which is clever, because both men have managed to say roughly the same thing
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