Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Canny Cable's Capitalist Con

Vince Cable was reported as attacking capitalism in his Lib Dem conference speech but in fact he played it pretty cannily - if you view politics on terms like his ie NOT 'what you see is what you get'. He was entertaining, used humour and exaggeration effectively and saw to it that his speech was widely circulated to the media beforehand. He used some colourful language, ‘spivs’, ‘gamblers’, ‘murky world’, ‘markets...rigged’ – which the media zoom in on – and drew just the (‘angry’) reaction he wanted from the business world. All of this created the general impression that Business Secretary Vince wanted and more than got him through what might have been a difficult Lib Dem conference. West Country Tory MP Jacob Rees Mogg described it -pretty accurately - as ‘throwing a few lentils’ to his party faithful. I’d describe it as leading everyone on a merry dance (see picture for evidence) - using spin in an attempt to put us in a spin, confusing and causing problems for us with deception/disguise and behaving in a way that hides realities.

Being keen to understand all variations of and views on capitalism – never more so than since capitalist economic systems around the world took many industrial economies to the very brink due to the banking crisis – I closely watched the Cable speech and have followed some of his pronouncements since. Vince Cable stressed the importance of finance, the deficit and its ‘correction’ through cuts and freezing public sector pay. He spoke of how economic growth is essential, how we must remove obstacles to growth and how it should be led private enterprise (he's since stressed the importance of growth eg here). He referred to his agenda as pro-market, pro-business – with competition central - and how high taxes on rich people and companies could send them abroad. The privatisation of Royal Mail was mentioned and he referred to graduates as having to make a bigger contribution to the cost of their higher education (what has since emerged is the creeping privatisation of higher education through the establishment of a free market in tuition fees). Vince has since stressed how he wants to speed up Royal Mail privatisation.

Does this sound like a firmly capitalist approach or an attack on capitalism to you?? Andrew Neil said in his analysis immediately after the speech that he thought it faced in two directions at once. Ex-Chancellor Alistair Darling described Cable’s speech as ‘political hokey cokey’ (great phrase!). In my view the speech liberally (and Liberal Democratically!) sprinkled firm capitalist policies and actions amongst crowd-pleasing rhetoric designed to create the impression of anti-capitalism! There is certainly debate about precisely what capitalism is but few, if any, would dispute that it involves private ownership, private profit, decisions made by a market and economic growth as the primary aim – all which are extended by Vince Cable’s policies and actions along with those of the Coalition Government he is fully signed up to. So, its Vince Capitalist then.
[I'll follow up on this post with a further analysis of capitalism later]

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