The Vince Cable interview

Britain does not have “an underlying inflation problem”, according to the Business Secretary.

In this week's New Statesman, Vince Cable speaks to the New Statesman editor, Jason Cowley, about the threat of deflation, Nick Clegg and George Osborne, that tuition fee pledge – and why we could be heading for another financial crash. To read the piece in full, pick up the magazine on news-stands from tomorrow.

Until then, here are some of the highlights from the interview.

Cable argues that Britain does not have a problem with inflation and backs efforts by the governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, to keep interest rates low in order to stave off deflation. He says:

We don't have an underlying inflation problem. The Bank's job, as the governor keeps pointing out, is not to look at today's numbers, but to look 18 months ahead. It still seems that the centre of gravity at the MPC is very much at the governor. I find that reassuring.

People have not yet come to terms with how bad the financial crisis was, according to Cable, and don't realise that we could be heading for another. He says:

"I think the thing that worries me more than anything else [is that] we really haven't engaged with the real depths and seriousness of the financial crash. I was very impressed with that Warren Buffett metaphor that asset-backed mortgage lending was the atomic bomb, and that there are hydrogen bombs out there. I just don't think that collectively governments have got to grips with this at all." So another huge bomb could go off, sooner rather than later? "It's not imminent. But you can see this happening."

Cable accepts that the Lib Dem pledge not to raise tuition fees was a "serious mistake", and says it was one he never leapt to make.

"We all take responsibility for being involved in [signing the tuition fee pledge]. I wasn't very keen on that [at the time]. But it's collective responsibility" – he pauses, sips his tea – "we all did it. We had a meeting of our key people yesterday. One of my colleagues, who you would think of as quite critical of radical policy, said: 'We should get eight or nine out of ten for our policies, but one or two for our politics.' I think that's a fair assessment of how things are."

Even though Nick Clegg has taken a hammering from the public and press, the Business Secretary calls on people not to pity the Lib Dem leader.

"I don't think he needs pity, absolutely not, because he's quite a strong guy. But he has put up with an enormous amount of very, very vicious stuff, and what's worse about it, it's come from both sides. It isn't so much feeling sorry for him, just sort of feeling a sense of kinship. I've been subject to – not as much abuse as him – but a certain amount. It's relentlessly hostile. It also comes from, you know, our friends on the left." He smiles.

Ed Miliband has not made an impressive start, he says.

[He] comes across as sort of very clever but tactically smart, rather than strategic, and all this endless point-scoring I find isn't helping him or anybody else, actually. It's short term.

The Business Secretary supports fiscal autonomy for Scotland and that it should be free to set its own corporation tax, even at rates similar to Ireland's.

I think the logic of that is irresistible, if you have a devolved system. If you want power, then you have to have the responsibility, and the responsibility goes with making fiscal choices, and fiscal choices involve not just spending a block grant, which is what happens at the moment, but making decisions on how to raise revenue.

Cable also discusses the unofficial truce between him and George Osborne. "We have a businesslike relationship," he explains. Did you make a non-aggression pact? asks Cowley.

"Sort of, yeah. [But] there's no peace treaty thing. I meet him every week, have a good discussion about the current agenda. [Our pact] was not explicit, but there is an understanding. I respect the fact that we have to have a common view on the basic economic management, and he gives me a major role to play in the growth agenda, which is extremely important for government."

To read the piece in full, pick up a copy of the magazine on news-stands in London from tomorrow or subscribe.

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Let's face it: supporting Spurs is basically a form of charity

Now, for my biggest donation yet . . .

I gazed in awe at the new stadium, the future home of Spurs, wondering where my treasures will go. It is going to be one of the architectural wonders of the modern world (football stadia division), yet at the same time it seems ancient, archaic, a Roman ruin, very much like an amphitheatre I once saw in Croatia. It’s at the stage in a new construction when you can see all the bones and none of the flesh, with huge tiers soaring up into the sky. You can’t tell if it’s going or coming, a past perfect ruin or a perfect future model.

It has been so annoying at White Hart Lane this past year or so, having to walk round walkways and under awnings and dodge fences and hoardings, losing all sense of direction. Millions of pounds were being poured into what appeared to be a hole in the ground. The new stadium will replace part of one end of the present one, which was built in 1898. It has been hard not to be unaware of what’s going on, continually asking ourselves, as we take our seats: did the earth move for you?

Now, at long last, you can see what will be there, when it emerges from the scaffolding in another year. Awesome, of course. And, har, har, it will hold more people than Arsenal’s new home by 1,000 (61,000, as opposed to the puny Emirates, with only 60,000). At each home game, I am thinking about the future, wondering how my treasures will fare: will they be happy there?

No, I don’t mean Harry Kane, Danny Rose and Kyle Walker – local as well as national treasures. Not many Prem teams these days can boast quite as many English persons in their ranks. I mean my treasures, stuff wot I have been collecting these past 50 years.

About ten years ago, I went to a shareholders’ meeting at White Hart Lane when the embryonic plans for the new stadium were being announced. I stood up when questions were called for and asked the chairman, Daniel Levy, about having a museum in the new stadium. I told him that Man United had made £1m the previous year from their museum. Surely Spurs should make room for one in the brave new mega-stadium – to show off our long and proud history, delight the fans and all those interested in football history and make a few bob.

He mumbled something – fluent enough, as he did go to Cambridge – but gave nothing away, like the PM caught at Prime Minister’s Questions with an unexpected question.

But now it is going to happen. The people who are designing the museum are coming from Manchester to look at my treasures. They asked for a list but I said, “No chance.” I must have 2,000 items of Spurs memorabilia. I could be dead by the time I finish listing them. They’ll have to see them, in the flesh, and then they’ll be free to take away whatever they might consider worth having in the new museum.

I’m awfully kind that way, partly because I have always looked on supporting Spurs as a form of charity. You don’t expect any reward. Nor could you expect a great deal of pleasure, these past few decades, and certainly not the other day at Liverpool when they were shite. But you do want to help them, poor things.

I have been downsizing since my wife died, and since we sold our Loweswater house, and I’m now clearing out some of my treasures. I’ve donated a very rare Wordsworth book to Dove Cottage, five letters from Beatrix Potter to the Armitt Library in Ambleside, and handwritten Beatles lyrics to the British Library. If Beckham and I don’t get a knighthood in the next honours list, I will be spitting.

My Spurs stuff includes programmes going back to 1910, plus recent stuff like the Opus book, that monster publication, about the size of a black cab. Limited editions cost £8,000 a copy in 2007. I got mine free, as I did the introduction and loaned them photographs. I will be glad to get rid of it. It’s blocking the light in my room.

Perhaps, depending on what they want, and they might take nothing, I will ask for a small pourboire in return. Two free tickets in the new stadium. For life. Or longer . . . 

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 16 February 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times