At close of play in Channel 4’s Ask the Chancellors, the Lib Dem Treasury spokesperson had edged the online vote with 36 per cent over Alistair Darling and George Osborne, jointly tied on 32 per cent.
Cable got laughs, calling the live debate a “love-in” and inviting the audience to ridicule a nervy Osborne’s double standards on the savings set out in the Budget: last week they were pie in the sky, this week they are a damning indictment of government policy.
He also had the lion’s share of catchphrases, calling out the “prima donnas in financial speculation” and “pinstripe Scargills” among the super-rich who are holding the country to ransom over the highest rate of tax.
This was hardly suprising — as the public’s choice for chancellor, Cable was always going to have the best of it. What was interesting was Osborne’s weak showing, as he failed to land a solid punch on the government that had managed the finances for more than ten years preceding the recession.
Instead, the older men ganged up on the shaky Tory shadow chancellor, who could only manage weak references to the national debt in a discussion of the causes of the financial crisis.
Darling called out Osborne on National Insurance, accusing the shadow chancellor of “taking a terrible risk with the economy”, and of being “irresponsible” and guilty of “poor, poor judgement”. He even got a laugh from the derisory question, “What is the Conservative position?”
And he came back quickly on the accusation of stealing Conservative policy on stamp duty, saying, “Nothing like cross-party co-operation, George.”
Verdict? Sorry, Dave, you’re on your own.