Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Cable sets the weather dial to gloomy

If you've never been measured for a coffin while standing up you've never really listened to a Vince Cable speech.

The prophet of doom did his best here in Birmingham to outdo Alistair Darling as the gloomiest man in politics with his predictions that we are all doomed.

Opinion polling suggests that what Vince says is true for the Lib Dems at least. The news this morning that credit rating agency Standards and Poor has downgraded Italy for the second time in four months shows that his grey skies analogy might hold true for the rest of us too.

Cable's dramatic confession that we can expect very little in the way of economic growth sends a shudder through the collective spine and sets the tone for the rest of the conference season and, one suspects, the rest of this parliament.

It has been a bit of a heads down, lacklustre and unenticing affair, the Lib Dem conference. The conflicting platform messages of rowing away from the coalition while emphasising the need to stick to government and the deficit reduction plan just don't add up to a clear narrative.

Simon Hughes and Tim Farron and Evan Harris are causing licensed trouble for the leadership but you don't detect any great rebellion on the conference floor.
The Lib Dems are conflicted, as relationship counsellors would say, and it's beginning to show.

Concreted Birmingham has matched the weather and my mood. I'm trying to like the city but can't find any greenery. There are trees in the far distance, but these sunny uplands seem a long way away.

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