Cable attacks "right-wing nutters" in the US

The Business Secretary hits out at those trying to block the raising of the US debt ceiling.

Vince Cable has provided us with another one of those wonderful outbursts ("I have declared war on Rupert Murdoch", "Capitalism takes no prisoners and kills competition where it can") that reminds us that the coalition hasn't quite stolen his soul.

Appearing on The Andrew Marr Show this morning, Cable remarked of those Republicans attempting to block the raising of the US debt ceiling:

The irony of the situation at the moment, with markets opening tomorrow morning, is that the biggest threat to the world financial system comes from a few right-wing nutters in the American Congress rather than the eurozone.

The Business Secretary is, of course, right. As NS economics editor David Blanchflower pointed out in his column this week, raising the debt ceiling has been normal practice for nearly half a century. He noted: "It has been increased 74 times during that period and, significantly, was raised more under Republican presidents than it has been under Democrats. Ronald Reagan raised the ceiling 18 times when he was in office."

The current Republican Party is well to the right of George Osborne. Even under his plans, the national debt is set to rise from £1.3 trillion in 2011-12 to £1.6 trillion to 2015-16, and it won't start falling as a per cent of GDP until the end of this Parliament. All the same, one wonders what Osborne and his allies make of Cable's decidedly undiplomatic language.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Theresa May is paying the price for mismanaging Boris Johnson

The Foreign Secretary's bruised ego may end up destroying Theresa May. 

And to think that Theresa May scheduled her big speech for this Friday to make sure that Conservative party conference wouldn’t be dominated by the matter of Brexit. Now, thanks to Boris Johnson, it won’t just be her conference, but Labour’s, which is overshadowed by Brexit in general and Tory in-fighting in particular. (One imagines that the Labour leadership will find a way to cope somehow.)

May is paying the price for mismanaging Johnson during her period of political hegemony after she became leader. After he was betrayed by Michael Gove and lacking any particular faction in the parliamentary party, she brought him back from the brink of political death by making him Foreign Secretary, but also used her strength and his weakness to shrink his empire.

The Foreign Office had its responsibility for negotiating Brexit hived off to the newly-created Department for Exiting the European Union (Dexeu) and for navigating post-Brexit trade deals to the Department of International Trade. Johnson was given control of one of the great offices of state, but with no responsibility at all for the greatest foreign policy challenge since the Second World War.

Adding to his discomfort, the new Foreign Secretary was regularly the subject of jokes from the Prime Minister and cabinet colleagues. May likened him to a dog that had to be put down. Philip Hammond quipped about him during his joke-fuelled 2017 Budget. All of which gave Johnson’s allies the impression that Johnson-hunting was a licensed sport as far as Downing Street was concerned. He was then shut out of the election campaign and has continued to be a marginalised figure even as the disappointing election result forced May to involve the wider cabinet in policymaking.

His sense of exclusion from the discussions around May’s Florence speech only added to his sense of isolation. May forgot that if you aren’t going to kill, don’t wound: now, thanks to her lost majority, she can’t afford to put any of the Brexiteers out in the cold, and Johnson is once again where he wants to be: centre-stage. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.