Vince Cable, 69, thinks the "worship of youth" by political parties may be over

Whatever could the subtext be?

In an interview with the Financial Times today, Vince Cable made some intriguing comments about the future of the Liberal Democrats. Asked whether he would ever run for the leadership of the party, he said:

I don’t exclude it – who knows what might happen in the future.

He also said:

The worship of youth has diminished – perhaps generally – in recent years.

and hit back at attempts to portray him as far too left-wing, criticising the "macho right" of the Tories:

When I made my statement on executive remuneration and responsible capitalism, I had some of those backbenchers jumping saying this is socialism or Marxism, they just completely don’t get it.

So, to recap, Vince Cable is not ruling out leading the Lib Dems, doesn't think he's too old to do so at 69, and is keen to talk about how he speaks out on City pay and capitalism, but isn't a frothing left-winger.

Of course, none of this means he is anything less than totally supportive of Nick Clegg, who is

doing a good job and is standing up to the pressures.                                               

PS. The FT interview is well worth a read in full, if you have a subscription. There's a touching section on his two marriages and his love of "strong women:

Olympia, who died of cancer in 2001, was the first of two strong women in Cable’s life. “She would let me watch Match of the Day if I did the ironing at the same time,” the minister jokes. Rachel, the second, keeps horses in the New Forest. Today Cable wears two wedding bands on his finger.

Cable also likes working with strong women. Four out of five of Cable’s private secretaries are female, and when he recently held a meeting to discuss curbs on excessive pay in Britain’s male-dominated boardrooms, four out of the six advisers in the room were women. Cable says he does not have a deliberate policy of employing female staff, but adds: “I’ve always been comfortable working with women and I’ve had two happy marriages. Draw what conclusions you like from that.”

Vince Cable. Photo: Getty Images

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.

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Four times Owen Smith has made sexist comments

The Labour MP for Pontypridd and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership rival has been accused of misogynist remarks. Again.

2016

Wanting to “smash” Theresa May “back on her heels”

During a speech at a campaign event, Owen Smith blithely deployed some aggressive imagery about attacking the new Prime Minister. In doing so, he included the tired sexist trope beloved of the right wing press about Theresa May’s shoes – her “kitten heels” have long been a fascination of certain tabloids:

“I’ll be honest with you, it pained me that we didn’t have the strength and the power and the vitality to smash her back on her heels and argue that these our values, these are our people, this is our language that they are seeking to steal.”

When called out on his comments by Sky’s Sophy Ridge, Smith doubled down:

“They love a bit of rhetoric, don’t they? We need a bit more robust rhetoric in our politics, I’m very much in favour of that. You’ll be getting that from me, and I absolutely stand by those comments. It’s rhetoric, of course. I don’t literally want to smash Theresa May back, just to be clear. I’m not advocating violence in any way, shape or form.”

Your mole dug around to see whether this is a common phrase, but all it could find was “set back on one’s heels”, which simply means to be shocked by something. Nothing to do with “smashing”, and anyway, Smith, or somebody on his team, should be aware that invoking May’s “heels” is lazy sexism at best, and calling on your party to “smash” a woman (particularly when you’ve been in trouble for comments about violence against women before – see below) is more than casual misogyny.

Arguing that misogyny in Labour didn’t exist before Jeremy Corbyn

Smith recently told BBC News that the party’s nastier side only appeared nine months ago:

“I think Jeremy should take a little more responsibility for what’s going on in the Labour party. After all, we didn’t have this sort of abuse and intolerance, misogyny, antisemitism in the Labour party before Jeremy Corbyn became the leader.”

Luckily for Smith, he had never experienced misogyny in his party until the moment it became politically useful to him… Or perhaps, not being the prime target, he simply wasn’t paying enough attention before then?

2015

Telling Leanne Wood she was only invited on TV because of her “gender”

Before a general election TV debate for ITV Wales last year, Smith was caught on camera telling the Plaid Cymru leader that she only appeared on Question Time because she is a woman:

Wood: “Have you ever done Question Time, Owen?”

Smith: “Nope, they keep putting you on instead.”

Wood: “I think with party balance there’d be other people they’d be putting on instead of you, wouldn’t they, rather than me?”

Smith: “I think it helps. I think your gender helps as well.”

Wood: “Yeah.”

2010

Comparing the Lib Dems’ experience of coalition to domestic violence

In a tasteless analogy, Smith wrote this for WalesHome in the first year of the Tory/Lib Dem coalition:

“The Lib Dem dowry of a maybe-referendum on AV [the alternative vote system] will seem neither adequate reward nor sufficient defence when the Tories confess their taste for domestic violence on our schools, hospitals and welfare provision.

“Surely, the Liberals will file for divorce as soon as the bruises start to show through the make-up?”

But never fear! He did eventually issue a non-apology for his offensive comments, with the classic use of “if”:

“I apologise if anyone has been offended by the metaphorical reference in this article, which I will now be editing. The reference was in a phrase describing today's Tory and Liberal cuts to domestic spending on schools and welfare as metaphorical ‘domestic violence’.”

***

A one-off sexist gaffe is bad enough in a wannabe future Labour leader. But your mole sniffs a worrying pattern in this list that suggests Smith doesn’t have a huge amount of respect for women, when it comes to political rhetoric at least. And it won’t do him any electoral favours either – it makes his condemnation of Corbynite nastiness ring rather hollow.

I'm a mole, innit.