Lib Dems banking on Cable’s pulling power

THE politician who won a wave of popularity on the back of a banking crisis, a Saudi king and a couple of Mr Bean comments has dropped in on Camden to lend his support to the local party

Katie Davies

THE politician who won a wave of popularity on the back of a banking crisis, a Saudi king and a couple of Mr Bean comments has dropped in on Camden to lend his support to the local party.

Vince Cable MP, now deputy leader and shadow chancellor for the Lib Dems, won a strong following as caretaker leader for the party last year - most notably describing Gordon Brown's change "from Stalin to Mr Bean".

Last Thursday he was happy to lend support to the party's candidate in the upcoming by-election in Fortune Green, Nancy Jirira.

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Talking to the Ham&High, he recalled the highlights of his leadership but insisted he is happy to return to the confines of the Treasury and dismissed the latest suggestions that his party has an electoral pact with the Tories.

"I have been kept incredibly busy. There are three or four major issues on the go in the Northern Rock crisis, capital gains and the BAE systems enquiry," he said.

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"It's intimidating to stand up at Prime Minister's Question Time with the noise of 400 people shouting at you, however when you've mastered it you get a satisfaction from it. I did quite enjoy it towards the end.

"It was clear from the outset that I wasn't going forward as a leadership candidate, so I could act single-mindedly. It went well and there were a lot of things people felt strongly about like the Saudi visit.

"There are things to learn from it. We are not a mainstream party and we should be taking the radical position on things."

Nick Clegg MP has since been appointed as party leader and won headlines this month with suggestions his party would back David Cameron in a hung parliament.

But Mr Cable told the Ham&High that, unlike at Camden Council, no Tory-Lib Dem deals are on the table nationally.

"We have a new leader and I'm very much with him," Mr Cable said. "He didn't say there would be an alliance with the Tories. He was answering a question about whether we were in bed with the Labour party.

"We are not pushing for alliances or coalitions with either of them. What he was saying is that we are not leaning with the Labour Party or the Conservatives. It was a misunderstanding."

The new councillor for Fortune Green is to be selected tonight.

If appointed, NHS worker Nancy Jirira will be the first black councillor for the Lib Dems - a party which currently has no black or Asian MPs.

Mr Cable believes such a result would be a good step forward for the party. He said: "Increasing black and ethnic minority representation is a major priority for us, at both council and national level. We have publicly acknowledged we haven't done enough.

"We have to encourage high quality candidates, especially ethic minority candidates and women. We have not gone down the road of quotas like all-women or ethnic minority shortlists, but we should give these candidates priority where it is possible and channel our resources into encouragement and support."

Mr Cable is also backing the campaign to support local post offices. "It is very worrying because the core for a lot of shopping centres in local communities is the post office," he said.

"Large numbers of people who use them are pensioners and mothers with young children so they can't just travel a mile on a bus looking for another one as they will now be expected to do."

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