Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Vince Cable's U-Turn: The Liberal Democrats "New Clothes"

Business Secretary Vince Cable (a Liberal Democrat MP) made an interesting admission in Parliament yesterday. He argues that, yes, he had campaigned in the general election against any rise in tuition fees. Why was he then changing his mind? He changed his mind because when he looked at the deficit numbers he woke up to a new sense of reality. In other words, the problem with his critics who would oppose lifting the cap on fees is that they are unrealistic and, therefore, should not be taken seriously.

There is a major flaw in this argument. This flaw is that that the deficit numbers were known in advance of the general election. It is incorrect to say that these numbers were only understood post-election.

This raises the prospect of a special form of self-admission. Were Liberal Democrats in the last general election making unrealistic election promises in order to win votes? This is hard to confirm, but some evidence may be found in this admission by Vince Cable.

The question is how many other policies did Liberal Democratic endorse in order to win over votes knowing these policies were highly unlikely to be implemented?

I have previously argued about Nick Clegg’s electoral gamble. It may be that the biggest gamble was choosing to enter government. For many decades, his party could claim any number of policies without much genuine prospect of having to put them into laws. Now that they are in power, the game has changed. The problem of no longer being in opposition is that one can't argue what one would have done better if only one was in power.

There is the old story about the Emperor's "new clothes": perhaps we might say the same about Liberal Democrat election promises?

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