Cable’s attack on Thatcherism gets an airing

Scottish Lib Dem leader delivers the comments that Vince Cable dropped from a recent speech.

Vince Cable's recent call for a "progressive majority" of Labour and Lib Dem voters to support AV in order to end Tory dominance reminded us that most Lib Dems would be far more comfortable in coalition with Ed Miliband's party than with David Cameron's. If you want to get an idea of the loathing that some Lib Dems retain for the Tories it's well worth reading the interview with the Lib Dems' leader in Scotland, the aptly named Tavish Scott, in today's Scotsman.

Scott has previously put clear yellow water between himself and Nick Clegg by admitting that the Lib Dem leader makes him "grimace". Today, he launches a ferocious attack on the Conservatives ahead of the devolved elections on 5 May.

He declares that the Tories would have "burned Scotland at the stake" if they had entered government on their own last year and claims that Clegg has spared Scotland "the worst excesses of Thatcherism". He adds: "We all remember Thatcherism – the poll tax, Scotland being used as a guinea pig, mass unemployment."

But what is fascinating is that his comments are almost identical to those that Cable dropped from his speech at the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce last week. A press release of the speech given to journalists suggested that the Business Secretary would argue that the Lib Dems were preventing the Tories from "behaving like they did" under Thatcher.

The Business Secretary was scheduled to say: "I remember the negative side of Thatcherism – the poll tax, mass unemployment and the claims that there was no such thing as society . . . That's why I'm glad the Tories aren't in power themselves at Westminster. We have stopped the Tories behaving like they did under Thatcher."

The similarities continue. Cable was also due to argue that "we stopped them from introducing their plans to cut taxes for millionaires". In today's interview, Scott says: "they [the Conservatives] wanted to help millionaires with inheritance tax, not help low-paid people out of tax altogether".

Until now, why Cable decided to remove those remarks from his speech has remained a mystery. Most assumed that he simply wanted to avoid further controversy after his attack on Cameron's "very unwise" immigration speech. But it now seems likely that Lib Dem strategists believed that the attack on Thatcherism would be more convincing if it came from Scott (who, of course, is not a member of the coalition), rather than Cable.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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For the first time in my life I have a sworn enemy – and I don’t even know her name

The cyclist, though, was enraged. “THAT’S CLEVER, ISN’T IT?” she yelled. “WALKING IN THE ROAD!”

Last month, I made an enemy. I do not say this lightly, and I certainly don’t say it with pride, as a more aggressive male might. Throughout my life I have avoided confrontation with a scrupulousness that an unkind observer would call out-and-out cowardice. A waiter could bring the wrong order, cold and crawling with maggots, and in response to “How is everything?” I’d still manage a grin and a “lovely, thanks”.

On the Underground, I’m so wary of being a bad citizen that I often give up my seat to people who aren’t pregnant, aren’t significantly older than me, and in some cases are far better equipped to stand than I am. If there’s one thing I am not, it’s any sort of provocateur. And yet now this: a feud.

And I don’t even know my enemy’s name.

She was on a bike when I accidentally entered her life. I was pushing a buggy and I wandered – rashly, in her view – into her path. There’s little doubt that I was to blame: walking on the road while in charge of a minor is not something encouraged by the Highway Code. In my defence, it was a quiet, suburban street; the cyclist was the only vehicle of any kind; and I was half a street’s length away from physically colliding with her. It was the misjudgment of a sleep-deprived parent rather than an act of malice.

The cyclist, though, was enraged. “THAT’S CLEVER, ISN’T IT?” she yelled. “WALKING IN THE ROAD!”

I was stung by what someone on The Apprentice might refer to as her negative feedback, and walked on with a redoubled sense of the parental inadequacy that is my default state even at the best of times.

A sad little incident, but a one-off, you would think. Only a week later, though, I was walking in a different part of town, this time without the toddler and engrossed in my phone. Again, I accept my culpability in crossing the road without paying due attention; again, I have to point out that it was only a “close shave” in the sense that meteorites are sometimes reported to have “narrowly missed crashing into the Earth” by 50,000 miles. It might have merited, at worst, a reproving ting of the bell. Instead came a familiar voice. “IT’S YOU AGAIN!” she yelled, wrathfully.

This time the shock brought a retort out of me, probably the harshest thing I have ever shouted at a stranger: “WHY ARE YOU SO UNPLEASANT?”

None of this is X-rated stuff, but it adds up to what I can only call a vendetta – something I never expected to pick up on the way to Waitrose. So I am writing this, as much as anything, in the spirit of rapprochement. I really believe that our third meeting, whenever it comes, can be a much happier affair. People can change. Who knows: maybe I’ll even be walking on the pavement

Mark Watson is a stand-up comedian and novelist. His most recent book, Crap at the Environment, follows his own efforts to halve his carbon footprint over one year.

This article first appeared in the 20 October 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Brothers in blood