Whisper it, but Labour’s economic policy is now Vince Cable’s economic policy, delayed a few years.
Support for more vocational training and skills? Check
An emphasis on radical banking reform? Check
An emphasis on regional business structures to support private sector growth? Check
Reform of markets through more activist regulation on key issues like Takeovers? Check
Deficit reduction over the medium term, but not while the economy is slumping (a key part of ‘The Storm and probably best expressed politically here)? Check
I suppose one point of difference is that Labour wants to introduce a 10p tax band for the lowest non-tax-payers, while Cable wanted to lift them out of tax altogether.That doesn’t seem an insurmountable difference.
I don’t mention this as a snipe.
I think Vince Cable’s economic policy in 2010 was broadly right, and the twin tragedy of the 2010 election is that Labour didn’t really try to steal it (because the future cuts needed were too painful to embrace), and that the Tories and Nick Clegg refused to steal it when they had the chance (because they were wedded to the stupidity of immediate austerity.
The reason Labour didn’t embrace the cable approach fully at the last election is that we were not prepared to do some of the things he proposed to create the fiscal space to allow this to happen. We weren’t willing to squeeze tax credits or pension tax relief for example. I happen to think we were right on tax credits, wrong on pensions tax relief. Conversely, I think the Lib Dems were wrong to propose extra spending on pensions while abolishing the Child Trust Fund.
Besides, Labour lost the last election. I don’t have a problem with appealing to voters who liked the sound of this sort of thing.
One thought, though: However far this approach takes us, however attractive it is, it still leaves us with the question of how we manage to achieve these goals within an eye-watering overall fiscal envelope.
For Cable, stuck helpless in government as Osborne reins his ideas in, that is frustrating today.
We have to find a way to ensure it is not equally frustrating for a future Labour Prime Minister.