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9 October 2008

The onward march of Vince Cable: you read it here first

The Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman is now the bookies' favourite to be the next Chancellor

By Martin Bright

The Political Betting website is always worth a look and today it has a fascinating piece about the betting on Vince Cable to succeed Alastair Darling as Chancellor. The Betfair next chancellor market (something I must say I didn’t know existed) now has him as favourite at 2.15/1.

The site quotes a piece for The First Post website by their “Westminster Insider” The Mole asking what will happen if the bank rescue fails: “One answer being put forward in Blairite circles yesterday is that the Prime Minister will dump his ultra-loyal Chancellor Alistair Darling – and bring in Vince Cable as a part of a deal with the Liberal Democrats,” says The Mole.

I have been floating the idea of a national government for two weeks now. I touched on it in my column about the Labour Party conference:

“If the financial crisis is as serious as many in the government suggest, then extraordinary times require bold solutions. There is an argument for saying that the Prime Minister should invite David Cameron and Nick Clegg to Downing Street and tell them the time has come for all good men to come to the aid of the country. A national government would allow Brown to bring in expertise from across the political spectrum.

Just imagine if Vince Cable’s business expertise could be harnessed in the present situation. An offer of cabinet posts to the Tories and Lib Dems would also serve to completely wrong-foot the opposition. Such thoughts are fanciful, of course, but they raise some interesting questions about Gordon Brown’s leadership.”

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Now I’m not so sure the idea is fanciful. Last week I continued in a similar vein: “There should now be no question of reshuffling his loyal Chancellor. Rather, Alastair Darling should be appointed to head an emergency committee that would include Vince Cable and Ed Balls. He should also consider bringing in an experienced Conservative. It might be wise to avoid David Cameron’s mentor Norman Lamont, who presided over the last British economic crisis, but the former chancellor Kenneth Clarke has been prepared to stand on cross-party platforms on Europe and can take some responsibility for digging the country out of a hole last time around.”

I am now increasingly convinced that Brown should make a big gesture and bring the opposition parties into his National Economic Council.

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