Hit or Miss? Vince Cable attacks coalition partners

In his keynote speech at the Liberal Democrat party conference Business Secretary Vince Cable yesterday launched a scathing attach on his government partners.

Vince Cable: Reaching out to activists (Credit: NCVO)
Vince Cable: Reaching out to activists (Credit: NCVO)

Accusing the Conservatives of "ugly" politics, he told activists that they had "reverted to type as the nasty party" but backed the Liberal Democrats' decision to work "constructively and pragmatically" in the coalition.

Earlier in the day Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg had been forced to deny clashing with Cable over economic policy.

How I See It

Lee Whitehill, director, Interel

Political leaders at conference traditionally speak over the shoulder of the faithful in the hall and into the living rooms of voters.

Cable’s job was to convince the electorate not only that he is still the conscience of the Liberal Democrats but that they actually have one in a year that brought us the bedroom tax, racist ad vans and badger culling.

The careful choreography of this strategy, which included the ‘will they won’t they’ on Cable turning up for the debate on the economy (which Clegg was never in danger of losing) was definitely a hit.

It got the Lib Dem message out by storytelling through the clever use of personalities and Newsnight, which is always going to make for better copy than speeches and fringe events.

True to script Cable’s speech keel hauled the party's coalition partners over economic policy and red meat Tory issues such as immigration and marriage, which ensured an acre of coverage.

This compared to an otherwise drab conference that only managed to hit a high note with an important but banal headline about taxing plastic bags, which had been leaked from Clegg’s speech to the Daily Mail four days early.

It was up to Cable therefore to plug the gap. While he was railing against Lynton Crosby’s dog whistle politics, he was sending his own particularly high pitched screech to the thousands of Lib Dems who have switched to Labour in the swing constituencies and without whom the Lib Dems, currently languishing behind UKIP on just 10 per cent, could be crushed.

So very much a hit – without a bit of drama I very much doubt many of us would have noticed there was a conference going on at all.

Was Clegg's speech a hit or a miss? Tell us in the comments below.

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