The business on...Lord Oakeshott, Liberal Democrat Peer


The new Vince?


Sort of. It's true that since becoming Secretary of State for Business, Vince Cable has become a bit more circumspect about expressing his views, even on bankers (his previous bêtes noires), and that Lord Oakeshott has not been reluctant to step into the breach. But they're quite different.

How do you mean?

Well apart from anything, Mr Cable is a dour northerner, while Lord Oake-shott is a posh southerner educated at Charterhouse and Oxford.

So the City prefers him then?

Not necessarily. If anything, he has gone even further than his predecessor in calling for tough action against bankers. And he's starting to wind people up. "Lord Oakeshott, I am confident, is a social delight and, yes, he is a Treasury spokesman in the Coalition Government. But he's hardly a luminary on banking," said one City scribbler yesterday.

Sounds like he's hitting them where it hurts?

Maybe. And to be fair to him, he does have plenty of relevant expertise – he spent a long period working in the City, for companies such as Warburgs. He even helped to found what has become a successful fund management business, Olim.

Not just a political hack then?

No, though he has done that too. He was a Labour member of Oxford City Council for several years and was also a special adviser to Roy Jenkins in the Seventies, first when Labour was in opposition and then when his boss became Home Secretary. He was a chocolate soldier.

Steady on now, he can't be completely useless

Not a chocolate teapot. A 'chocolate soldier' was the name given to special advisers to opposition frontbenchers at the time – they were funded by the Rowntree Trust, you see. He had gone to work in the City after standing unsuccessfully at two elections – once for Labour, once for the old Alliance – and the Lib Dems were then absolutely delighted to make him a peer in 2000.

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