Friday, 20 May 2016

Sir Vince Cable: The Portsmouth Point Interview

Caleb Barron, Oliver Clark, Will Dry and Charlotte Phillips interview former Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and former Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Sir Vince Cable.

Vince Cable, speaking to PGS pupils
A fire on the tracks of Vauxhall Station could not stop the Right Honourable Sir Vince Cable making his way down to PGS to deliver a talk on his life in politics and the coalition. The capacity of the Willis Room was pushed to breaking point, with pupils and teachers alike filing into the lunch hall to grab more and more chairs, which, in the event of a fire such as in London, would have been a health and safety catastrophe. Luckily for us, the talk given by Cable did not lead to any spontaneous combustions, but simply enjoyment and intrigue for all who attended.

The thing that I took most from this 45 minute + talk, was that I knew the opinions and thoughts of Cable were most definitely coming to the forefront. Too often do we see in the media, politicians who are so constricted by their party manifesto that they become almost puppets for the party that they represent. Here we saw someone giving a genuine insight into his life, starting with the conflict with his father's far right views, something that would eventually get him into politics, the school rendition of Hamlet that gave him the confidence of public speaking, his life in politics up until the disastrous results of last year's General Election, with a little bit of ballroom dancing along the way. He was very transparent in terms of his relationships with colleagues in Government, especially in reference to working closely with George Osborne.

A number of current issues were raised by the audience in a Q and A following his talk, with the EU Referendum, anti-semitism in the Labour Party, as well as the current state of the Liberal Democrats. Myself, Caleb Barron, Charlotte Phillips and Will Dry, as editors as Portsmouth Point, had the opportunity to ask our own personal questions to Cable, concluding an excellent afternoon. Unfortunately, he was unable to accept Mr Priory's request to be a guest star judge for the evenings PGS Come Dancing competition, but I am certain that after Mr Lemiuex's series of dancing puns, he will not be able to resist an invitation in the future!

interviewed by Portsmouth Point editors
Are there any compromises that you made within your position in the coalition government that you regret? (Caleb Barron)

Well I think I probably should have fought a bit harder against the first round of cuts in 2010. I mean the budget was such that we had to do difficult things but I think if I had fought off the treasury at that stage it would have made life a lot easier later on.

As you alluded to in your talk, both Labour and the Conservatives are in turmoil at the moment, do you think this is potentially winning back Lib Dem voters? (Oliver Clark)

Well it isn't so far; this is what's depressing. We're still stuck under 10% of the vote. I mean in theory we should be going up, there's a lot of disillusion among Labour and Tory voters but it isn't happening yet. That's the potential, that's the reason for our party continuing to fight because that space is there to occupy. UKIP of course can't do that because they're on the extremes, the Greens are very disorganised so if we don't do it nobody does it. People will just drop out and become apathetic.

Within the coalition cabinet, who would you say was the easiest to work with and who did you clash with the most? (Charlotte Phillips)

You clash with people, not necessarily their personalities, I get on well with people. My deputy and the person I worked with most was David Willetts who represented Havant, he was a great guy and very, very bright and very good colleague and we worked together on higher education reform and that was a big success. The person I had the most trouble with was Theresa May, who was in immigration. I mean I had a lot of respect for her, it wasn't that I disliked her, but she was very stubborn and uncompromising and I felt we were making some very bad decisions. I clashed with Michael Gove once or twice and he was always charming with me.

What do you think the Vince Cable legacy will be? (Caleb Barron)

I don't know really. I'm increasingly being approached by manufacturers who are in despair because this government isn't interested in industry. They've identified me as someone who pushed for that focus. I think the one thing that is maybe more Nick [Clegg]’s legacy is the reform of higher education. It's put universities on a very strong base although it was very unpopular.

interviewed by Portsmouth Point editors
Who do you think will take over from David Cameron if we vote Brexit? (Oliver Clark)

Well I think Boris is the obvious candidate although I'm not sure how much confidence there is in him. I think as he's been at the forefront of the Brexit campaign he has placed himself well. However if we do choose to leave the EU there will probably be another referendum if there isn't a large enough majority and so Theresa May is maybe another choice.

How did you handle the media and the press whilst you were in the coalition? (Will Dry)

Well we tended to divide the journalists up into different categories: there were the political commentators like Patrick Winter from the Guardian; the lobby correspondents who do the day to day reports; then there were the economic correspondents; and there was the editorial journalists. I had a brilliant adviser called Emily Walsh who guided me through all this and helped me handle the press. Everyday we would be thinking about how to convey our policies in the press and on television. That was one of the biggest aspects of the job.

Do you think the recent accusations of anti-semitism can prevent people from criticising Israel and its current policies? (Caleb Barron)

Oh I do, I'll try not to say anything too provocative. I mean anti-semitism is a loathsome thing that has been an issue throughout history but there are some people on the Israeli side that do exploit it and stop people from criticising them. It's become a way of trying to silence people who are asking the difficult questions and that's worrying, actually.

What are your thoughts on the current Presidential race in America? (Caleb Barron)

Well first of all I think Obama has done an incredibly good job. He's a great guy, extremely eloquent and he's done a lot: prevented a big economic collapse, first US President to get through health reform, worked towards banking reform and a generally sensible overseas policy keeping America out of unnecessary wars. You know Trump is a terrible, hateful demagogue but the more cynical people are saying he does this to get the nomination and if he gets in office he be more sensible. I have no idea. I'm quite a fan of Mrs Clinton, I think she's very smart and competent. But she's a bit ‘inauthentic’ and if she lacks that human quality really, that all politicians need, then if she faces someone who is a bully she may not be able to take the heat. I didn't have much time for Sanders. He tapped into a clear market but it's very easy to say the system is corrupt and the banks are too dominant; of course they are, but what are you going to do about it? He seemed very, very weak when it came to that.

With regards to Trump and his policy to stop immigration of Muslims, grabbing headlines, do you think it's an issue that Tim Farron isn't using these tactics? (Will Dry)

Yes well, Nigel Farage is the nearest thing we have in the UK and it hasn't really worked the same way in the UK. It does indicate what you can do when you tap into people's anger. I don't know if he believes any of what he says about Mexico and the wall. If Mexico said actually we're not going to build your ruddy wall, I don't know what he would do.

Watching PGS pupils prepare for PGS Come Dancing

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