Vince Cable predicts hung parliament at the next election as he defends talks with senior Labour figures

 

Business Secretary Vince Cable has predicted that the next election will result in another hung parliament and defended his talks with senior Labour figures, insisting that it is right to maintain “good communications” across the political spectrum.

In his keynote speech to the Liberal Democrat conference he attacked "backwoodsmen" in the Tories who oppose a mansion tax, ridiculed calls from the right for a "hire and fire culture" and mocked Prime Minister David Cameron, describing reports of a split within the Conservative party as "enticing".

He told activists in Brighton he does not believe that any party will win the 2015 election outright and insisted that any future government that resulted "must have Liberal Democrats at its heart".

The Business Secretary joked about his text exchanges with Labour leader Ed Miliband, pretending to receive a message on his phone during his speech.

But he made a serious point to critics of the relationship: "Many of the decisions we face, on banks, industrial strategy, climate change, go way beyond the limitations of one party or one parliament. That's why I also make sure that I have good communications with politicians across the political spectrum.

"I don't believe actually that the British people will want to entrust their future to any one party next time. And if Britain wants sustainable growth, competence with compassion, fairness with freedom and more equality not ever greater division, then that government must have Liberal Democrats at its heart."

Although he attacked "rootless" New Labour, Mr Cable reserved his most colourful language for the Lib Dems' coalition partners.

Expressing frustration at the lack of progress on the "core" Lib Dem policy of a mansion tax, he said: "I know it horrifies the Tory backwoodsmen but it is popular and right."

He described those who called for a major relaxation of employment laws, recommended by the Beecroft report commissioned by Downing Street, as "headbangers".

Mr Cable said: "We have seen off the headbangers who want a hire and fire culture and seem to find sacking people an aphrodisiac: totally irrelevant in a country with flexible labour markets which have created over a million private sector jobs in the last two years.

"Instead, we have concentrated on practical tribunal reform and supported progressive firms who want worker participation and share ownership."

In one passage of his speech he seized on reports of rivalry between Mr Cameron and London mayor Boris Johnson, highlighted the potentially toxic issue of class and also fuelled the row over chief whip Andrew Mitchell's spat with the police.

"Most of our MPs will face Conservatives at the next general election. They face the enticing prospect of a Tory split. Now I don't know what Boris and Dave got up to in Eton. Perhaps a pillow fight got out of control in the dormitories. I have been told, however, that jokes about social class are not good for the unity of the coalition. But as a mere pleb, I couldn't resist it."

The Business Secretary also confirmed plans for a business bank capitalised with £1 billion of taxpayers' money, stressed a commitment to house building and pledged to crack down on "shady" tax havens.

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Software / Web Developer - ASP.NET

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company produces a wide ra...

Recruitment Genius: Office / Sales Manager

£22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established and expanding South...

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones