Exclusive: Vince Cable – “Keynes would be on our side”

Cable argues in this week’s New Statesman that the famous economist would back the coalition’s econo

In an exclusive essay published in this week's New Statesman, the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, discusses the ideological battle between left and right over John Maynard Keynes's legacy – and why Keynes would back the coalition's policies.

Cable argues that knee-jerk opposition to the cuts will not suit the long-term causes of the left. "If the British left follows Bob Crow and the National Union of Students to the promised land of the big spenders, it will enjoy short-term popularity at the expense of the coalition but it will also enter an intellectual and political blind alley," writes Cable.

The cuts that the coalition is making are not a matter of choice. "For all the protesters shouting 'No to cuts', this electoral term would always have been about public-sector austerity, no matter who won the election," Cable argues.

"The outgoing Labour government was already planning a fiscal tightening of 1.5 per cent of GDP in 2010/2011," he writes. "The difference between its deficit reduction plan beyond 2010/2011 and that of the coalition amounts to roughly half a per cent of GDP per annum: well within the forecasting error."

The rhetoric of anti-cuts protesters is overblown, says Cable. "Such differences, though not trivial, hardly justify the titanic clash of economic ideas advertised in the commentaries or a threatened mobilisation of opposition comparable to the General Strike."

This week's New Statesman is available on news-stands from today. You can subscribe here.

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Jeremy Corbyn's Labour conference speech shows how he's grown

The leader's confident address will have impressed even his fiercest foes. 

It is not just Jeremy Corbyn’s mandate that has been improved by his re-election. The Labour leader’s conference speech was, by some distance, the best he has delivered. He spoke with far greater confidence, clarity and energy than previously. From its self-deprecating opening onwards ("Virgin Trains assure me there are 800 empty seats") we saw a leader improved in almost every respect. 

Even Corbyn’s firecest foes will have found less to take issue with than they may have anticipated. He avoided picking a fight on Trident (unlike last year), delivered his most forceful condemnation of anti-Semitism (“an evil”) and, with the exception of the Iraq war, avoided attacks on New Labour’s record. The video which preceded his arrival, and highlighted achievements from the Blair-Brown years, was another olive branch. But deselection, which Corbyn again refused to denounce, will remain a running sore (MPs alleged that Hillsborough campaigner Sheila Coleman, who introduced Corbyn, is seeking to deselect Louise Ellman and backed the rival TUSC last May).

Corbyn is frequently charged with lacking policies. But his lengthy address contained several new ones: the removal of the cap on council borrowing (allowing an extra 60,000 houses to be built), a ban on arms sales to abusive regimes and an arts pupil premium in every primary school.

On policy, Corbyn frequently resembles Ed Miliband in his more radical moments, unrestrained by Ed Balls and other shadow cabinet members. He promised £500bn of infrastructure investment (spread over a decade with £150bn from the private sector), “a real living wage”, the renationalisation of the railways, rent controls and a ban on zero-hours contracts.

Labour’s greatest divisions are not over policy but rules, strategy and culture. Corbyn’s opponents will charge him with doing far too little to appeal to the unconverted - Conservative voters most of all. But he spoke with greater conviction than before of preparing for a general election (acknowledging that Labour faced an arithmetical “mountain”) and successfully delivered the attack lines he has often shunned.

“Even Theresa May gets it, that people want change,” he said. “That’s why she stood on the steps of Downing Street and talked about the inequalities and burning injustices in today’s Britain. She promised a country: ‘that works not for a privileged few but for every one of us’. But even if she manages to talk the talk, she can’t walk the walk. This isn’t a new government, it’s David Cameron’s government repackaged with progressive slogans but with a new harsh right-wing edge, taking the country backwards and dithering before the historic challenges of Brexit.”

After a second landslide victory, Corbyn is, for now, unassailable. Many MPs, having voted no confidence in him, will never serve on the frontbench. But an increasing number, recognising Corbyn’s immovability, speak once again of seeking to “make it work”. For all the ructions of this summer, Corbyn’s speech will have helped to persuade them that they can.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.