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21 May 2011

Vince Cable blunt about Britain’s woes

“We are actually a poorer country,” says the Business Secretary.

By Sophie Elmhirst

In an interview in the Guardian today, Vince Cable has admitted that the government has not adequately communicated the state of Britain’s economy. Cable said:

We are actually a poorer country, mainly because of the banking crash, the recession that followed it and partly due to the squeeze we are now under from the changing balance of the world economy . . . Britain is no longer one of the world’s price-setters. We take our prices from international commodity markets driven by China and India. That is something we have got to live with and adjust to. It is painful. It is a challenge to us in government to explain it. The political class as a whole is not preparing the public for how massive the problem is.

Cable’s words appear to be a challenge to both David Cameron and George Osborne, who are keen to employ the message that Britain is gradually creeping into recovery, and to the opposition:

There is not a sustained critique, pressure or argument from the progressive wing of politics. Ultimately it comes back to this defensiveness and an unwillingness to accept that Britain was operating a model that failed . . .

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His frank and negative assessment of the British economy comes on the day Ed Miliband is seeking to rejuvenate his party with an optimistic message. The Business Secretary’s stark warning offers a direct contrast and a significant declaration of independence from his own government’s line:

The fact is that we are now having to get used perhaps to lower growth and a gradual process of building the economy up again. We have had a very, very profound crisis which is going to take a long time to dig out of . . . It has done profound damage and it is damage that is going to last a long time.