There was no doubt why the NW Lib Dem Conference was so well attended. Vince Cable was the key speaker. Everyone who was anyone in the region was there and Dr Cable did not disappoint. Firstly he was enormously patient and generous. He was signing books and pamphlets, talking quietly and directly to many delegates. There is no swagger about this man. Although he has been accorded superstar status by the broadsheet and broadcast media he wears it modestly and has a democratic approach. In question and answer he brilliant listening carefully to what was said answering complex points dispensing his knowledge without ever patronising.
Without being triumphalist he reviewed the economic policy over the last twenty years clearly pin pointing times when things went wrong and the warnings that he and others gave. Firstly with the banking crisis when he opposed the de mutualisation of building societies and recalled the hate mail he got from punters who believed that his approach was depriving them of a windfall payment when the assets of the mutual society accumulated over generations were given away to todays members.
He is justly famous for his graphic warnings about the borrowing that was going on secured against the artificially high price of property. We all remember his attack on lenders giving people 125% the supposed value of people's home as a mortgage. He recalled how one of the regualtors had rung him up and given him a hard time about his call for nationalising Northern Rock asserting that it was a sound well managed bank. And we all remember how the Tory front bench laughed him to scorn and Gordon Brown failed to comprehend the points at all.
Now the disaster that he almost alone in Parliament warned about has happened he has laid out his prescription and folk are now listening. He believes that the Tory party are both unable and unwilling to act having so consistently and recently opposed the measures that need to be taken. The whole issue of the banking sector needs to be rethought from the beginning and he floated the suggestion that we may wish to a model of mutual ownership so that the shares cannot be traded etc.
On the economy he was clear dramatic cuts in interest rates even as low as 0%. Tax cuts at the basic rate to put spending power in the pockets of citizens now. He did not rule out more traditional Keynesian public works but pointed out the time lag involved before they had a beneficial impact. He made two further points firstly that this was not the time to turn our backs on overseas aid as no matter how bad things are fore us the needs of those in developing countries are greater and secondly that we must not turn away from the green agenda it is not choice between confronting the economic disaster or tackling climate change, we need to both!
This he said was an Iraq moment when were right but had to endure rejection being ridiculed but in the end the fact we were right will be acknowledged.
For those wanting more this link is worth a read and a listen: