It’s not often he gets to be the centre of attention, so one imagines that Vince Cable is secretly enjoying the furore surrounding his outspoken address to the Liberal Democrat party conference, in which he laid into banks and City fat cats with aplomb.
The business secretary promised to shine “a harsh light into the murky world of corporate behaviour,” promising a review into what drives market short-termism in a bid to improve business behaviour.
Although renowned for his ‘straight-talking’ approach, it’s the first time we’ve really seen his political teeth, as he fights to retain his party’s identity within the coalition.
When he was appointed business secretary back in May, the move was widely welcomed by the business community; "Vince Cable understands business and is popular with many small and medium-sized companies,” said David Frost, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce at the time.
However, this week’s fiery display has divided opinion.
“Youngsters like him because he has a cool name that brings to mind an action movie star; oldies are keen because, well, because he's one of them. But the university world is fast falling out of love with the business secretary…that’s because of his use of the ‘T’ word – in other words, his mention of a graduate tax to replace top up fees,” wrote Lucy Hodges in a report for the Telegraph this week.
“Unfortunately, we have a business secretary who doesn't understand business and who misinterprets [the] founder of modern economics too,” said the Adam Smith Institute in a statement this week after Cable apparently (mis)quoted its founder in his speech.
The most revealing comment came from Miles Templeman, director general of the Institute of Directors, who said: "Vince Cable is a politician who wanted to make a political speech to a political audience, but once you peel away the rhetoric what we see is a new inquiry into whether there is too much short-termism in corporate Britain”.
And therein lies the problem. Before the coalition, we could get behind ‘Uncle Vince’ because he was in opposition; he wasn’t one of them and so he could say the things that those in power daren’t. Now that he’s in power, is he still in a position to attack the very leadership he’s partly responsible for?
I've been a journalist for four years, writing on a wide variety of topics from business and finance to travel, culture and celebrities. I began my career as an editorial assistant for Palladian Publications, a B2B publisher specialising in technical magazines for professionals in primary industries. I later moved into consumer magazines as a...