Cable opens fire on Cameron

Business Secretary attacks the Prime Minister’s immigration speech as “very unwise”.

The Lib Dems may have been in an assertive mood recently, but Vince Cable's attack on David Cameron's immigration speech is still remarkable. The Business Secretary described the Prime Minister's comments as "very unwise" and said the speech "risked inflaming extremism". It's one of the most striking acts of disloyalty from a cabinet minister in recent history. One suspects that, were this a single-party government, Cable would be facing the sack. In the age of coalition government, however, the rules of the game have changed.

After all, this isn't the first time that the Business Secretary has attacked Cameron's stance on this issue. Last September he said the immigration cap was "doing great damage" and admitted that he was "at the limit of collective responsibility". Given that the Lib Dems went into the general election promising an amnesty for illegal immigrants and ended up supporting the Tories' unworkable cap, it's hardly surprising that Cable feels the need to reassert his liberal credentials.

But while it's one thing for Cable to distance himself from the Conservative pledge to reduce net migration to "tens of thousands" a year (a policy that did not make it into the Coalition Agreement), it's quite another for him effectively to accuse the Prime Minister of pandering to racists. Yet the early indications are that he will keep his job: as one No 10 source simply told PoliticsHome, "Vince is Vince". But such a sanguine response won't go down well with the Tories, many of whom were frustrated that Cable remained in place after declaring "war" on Rupert Murdoch. They will rightly argue that a Conservative cabinet minister wouldn't receive such lenient treatment. Not for the first time, Cameron will be accused of weakness by his own side.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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No, David Cameron’s speech was not “left wing”

Come on, guys.

There is a strange journalistic phenomenon that occurs when a party leader makes a speech. It is a blend of groupthink, relief, utter certainty, and online backslapping. It happened particularly quickly after David Cameron’s speech to Tory party conference today. A few pundits decided that – because he mentioned, like, diversity and social mobility – this was a centre-left speech. A leftwing speech, even. Or at least a clear grab for the liberal centre ground. And so that’s what everyone now believes. The analysis is decided. The commentary is written. Thank God for that.

Really? It’s quite easy, even as one of those nasty, wicked Tories, to mention that you actually don’t much like racism, and point out that you’d quite like poor children to get jobs, without moving onto Labour's "territory". Which normal person is in favour of discriminating against someone on the basis of race, or blocking opportunity on the basis of class? Of course he’s against that. He’s a politician operating in a liberal democracy. And this isn’t Ukip conference.

Looking at the whole package, it was actually quite a rightwing speech. It was a paean to defence – championing drones, protecting Britain from the evils of the world, and getting all excited about “launching the biggest aircraft carriers in our history”.

It was a festival of flagwaving guff about the British “character”, a celebration of shoehorning our history chronologically onto the curriculum, looking towards a “Greater Britain”, asking for more “national pride”. There was even a Bake Off pun.

He also deployed the illiberal device of inculcating a divide-and-rule fear of the “shadow of extremism – hanging over every single one of us”, informing us that children in UK madrassas are having their “heads filled with poison and their hearts filled with hate”, and saying Britain shouldn’t be “overwhelmed” with refugees, before quickly changing the subject to ousting Assad. How unashamedly centrist, of you, Mr Prime Minister.

Benefit cuts and a reduction of tax credits will mean the Prime Minister’s enthusiasm for “equality of opportunity, as opposed to equality of outcome” will be just that – with the outcome pretty bleak for those who end up losing any opportunity that comes with state support. And his excitement about diversity in his cabinet rings a little hollow the day following a tubthumping anti-immigration speech from his Home Secretary.

If this year's Tory conference wins the party votes, it’ll be because of its conservative commitment – not lefty love bombing.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.