pulp and pith … current affairs blog

Vince Cable, willing and able

Posted on: February 13, 2009

Stumbled home just in time to catch the start of the BBC 6 o’ clock news. Top of the top stories was bad news about Lloyds Banking Group. The juice: all signs point to HBOS (which merged with Lloyds to form the Lloyds Banking Group as part of a rescue deal) reporting losses of £10 billion for the whole of 2008. That’s £1.6 billion more than bosses were expecting.

As a result, shares in the Lloyds Banking group have tumbled by a third. Taxpayers, who own over 40% of HBOS, are not happy. Lloyds’ shareholders are seriously narked, and Eric Daniels, chief executive of Lloyds, who on Wednesday was defending the Lloyds-HBOS merger, seems increasingly vulnerable.

The funny thing is, rather than getting chancellor Alistair Darling, or treasury secretary Yvette Cooper, onto the programme to comment on the story, the BBC turned to Vince Cable, the shadow Lib Dem chancellor.

In general, when asked, Vince Cable has delivered insightful comment on the state of the economic climate so far, and his consistency has gained my respect. It is not surprising that he is so good at talking about the economy – he’s an economist by trade, with an impressive amount of experience working in the financial and business sectors. He has even lectured on economics at the University of Glasgow.

Although he occasionally turns to jargon to explain difficult concepts, in general he strikes me as a man who knows what he is talking about, which is refreshing. Whenever he pops up in the papers or on Andrew Marr’s couch, he always has something penetrating to say, and when he popped up on the news today he came across well in the 20 seconds of airtime he was given.

Not being an insider, he stuck to what he knew – emphasising the seriousness of the HBOS situation and suggesting that this loss, as record-breaking and worrying as it is, could be the just the first of many body blows dealt to banks and businesses in the coming year.

He reminds me of a endemically patient Maths teacher: frustrated with the shortcomings of his pupils but unwilling or unable to express them.

There is probably a reasonable explanation for the BBC News turning to Vince Cable for comment on this story on their 6 o’ clock programme – maybe Alistair Darling, Yvette Cooper, David Cameron and George Osborne were all otherwise engaged. However, it does show that they are willing to turn to him. Good news for the increasingly marginalised Lim Dems, eh?

Click here! to see Vince in action.

Interesting Vince Cable speculation in The Mole

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