Vince Cable’s speech today was loyal and funny. Cable was, unlike in some previous years, very much on message. He lavished praise on Clegg for having turned the Liberal Democrats into a party of government. He ended his speech by telling the activists that ‘there is a lot to be proud of and we must be proud of it’ to the delight of Nick Clegg, who was rather distractingly wearing jeans in the conference hall.
Cable also attacked both the Tories and Labour. He joked that the Tories were turning into Ukip without the beer and Labour into Hollande-style socialists but without the sex.
The most aggressive part of his speech was when Cable alleged that any politician, eg George Osborne, who told you the books could be balanced without new tax rises was lying. But he then admitted that one of the reasons he wanted tax rises was to reduce inequality, in other words for ideological reasons.
The most passionate part of the speech was Cable’s defence of the economic and cultural benefits of immigration. There were plenty of barbs at the Tories in this section. But Cable did stress that EU benefit tourism must be dealt with. This was another reminder that despite the rhetoric, the outlines of a second Tory – Lib Dem coalition are becoming clearer.