David Prosser: It may have provoked but Cable's speech was hardly anti-capitalist


Outlook We can surely forgive Vince Cable one afternoon of political grandstanding. In opposition, Mr Cable was the LibDems' showman-in-chief, a far more effective and respected critic of the Labour government than the Conservatives with whom he now works. How the hair-shirt of office must have chafed these four long months. Even when his Tory colleagues asked Sir Philip Green, that master of tax avoidance, to work for coalition, the Business Secretary felt compelled to bite his tongue.

Mr Cable, then, is entitled to cut loose for an hour or two. Nor can he have been entirely displeased with some of the headlines prompted yesterday by the early release of extracts of his speech. The Daily Mail's "Cable's attack on capitalism" will no doubt have played particularly well with those in the Business Secretary's party who fear their leaders are giving up too much in the Coalition.

Still, while Richard Lambert, the director-general of the CBI, was happy to play the game, providing some frosty feedback to Mr Cable's speech, what did the Business Secretary say, exactly, that even the most rabid advocate of free market capitalism would object to?

Not a lot. The tone of the speech may have been deliberately provocative – all that talk of shining a light into "murky" corners – but you will be hard pressed to find anyone at the CBI, or elsewhere in business, who disagrees with much of the content. The idea that shareholders should have every chance to hold to account the management of the companies they own is hardly controversial. Nor is the suggestion that even greater disclosure of executive remuneration may be necessary.

In fact, what Mr Cable is really shining a light on – and he is hardly the first – is the debate about how we nurture a private sector that is capable of driving the economy forward while also curbing the excesses to which it is prone. Or, to put it another way, how we encourage business, from bankers to bingo hall owners, to focus on the long-term rather than allowing their heads to be turned by destructive short-term goals.

So far, the Business Secretary has not offered too many new answers to these rather tricky posers. But the practical applications of such objectives are things like the new rules on takeovers that figures such as Roger Carr, the former chairman of Cadbury, have called for, which would emphasise the interests of long-term investors over short-term speculators.

We shall see how Mr Cable fares in these endeavours during his term in office. But to paint him as anti-business on the basis of one speech to the party faithful is nonsense. It's worth pointing out that the one time Mr Cable has stuck his head above the parapet since coming to office was when he supported the complaints of business leaders about the Government's immigration cap. If he really wants to join the rebels on the barricades, it was a curious issue on which to revolt.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
News
people
News
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want for the fitness tech, or the style
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Ashdown Group: IT Manager / Development Manager - NW London - £58k + 15% bonus

£50000 - £667000 per annum + excellent benefits : Ashdown Group: IT Manager / ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant / Telemarketer - OTE £20,000

£13000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Scotland's leading life insuran...

Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manager - City, London

£40000 - £45000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manag...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own