Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable said Britain will need another coalition government after the 2015 election, attacking Prime Minister David Cameron’s Tories and the opposition Labour Party as unfit to rule alone.
In a speech to his party’s annual conference in Brighton, southern England, Cable said its current coalition partners, the Conservatives, feature “head-bangers” and “backwoodsmen” in thrall to free-market ideology and tax cuts for the rich, some of whom “seem to find sacking people an aphrodisiac.” He said Labour had “scarcely begun the long march back” after its “economic competence disappeared under the rubble of collapsing banks” before the 2010 election.
Support for the Liberal Democrats has fallen by more than half since their 2010 decision to go into coalition with the Conservatives. Cable argued they’d been a moderating influence on the Tories and would be able to act similarly with Labour.
“We remain willing to work with other parties in the wider interest,” Cable said. “After two years in government we are battle-hardened, but certainly not war-weary. None of us knows exactly how it will end. But we all know we must fight the next election as a totally independent, national, credible challenger for power.”
Fringe events at this year’s conference have discussed how the party, which in decades out of government attacked Labour over issues such as civil liberties and the invasion of Iraq and the Tories over welfare policies, can fight the next election having spent five years supporting Cameron’s fiscal-austerity program.
“I don’t believe, actually, that the British people will want to entrust their future to any one party next time,” Cable said. He described the “major contribution” of Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, as being to “show that coalitions work.”
Cable joked about recent reports that he’d exchanged text messages with Labour leader Ed Miliband, pretending to receive one during his speech. He mocked Labour Treasury spokesman Ed Balls, saying his difference with the government was over whether to cut the deficit in six years or seven.
Cable even offered support to Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne. “I have great personal sympathy for the chancellor, who is being attacked for borrowing too much, and borrowing too little, at the same time,” he said.
Still, he also poked fun at Cameron’s privileged background, departing from his agreed text to wonder aloud whether he’d had pillow fights in the dormitory with London Mayor Boris Johnson when they were both at Eton, Britain’s most prominent private school.