5 points from Steve Richards in conversation with Vince Cable


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The Independent Online

Our esteemed political columnist Steve Richards, whose piece on the Lib Dems is not to be missed today, pressed Business Secretary Vince Cable last night on his feelings about working with the Tories, and plans for his own party - and Cable didn't mince too many words in response. Take a look at some the highlights from the interview, which was sponsored by the RSA group.

1. Does Cable feel he has left equidistance between the Tories and Labour behind?

At first Cable said "No I am emphatically equidistant" - but later he admitted he does feel "unease" about working with the Tories.

2. Asked why his comments on the Tories have had a sharp edge of late, Cable replied:

"The increasing recourse to dog whistle politics on immigration".

As his department holds responsibility for foreign university students, Cable worried that possible immigrants, especially from India, may have been put off.

"We get a tenth of the number of Chinese coming here as France of Germany, why?" Cable added, implying again that Tory immigration policy is to blame.

3. How can Cable make sure the Lib Dems don't just split the difference between Tories and Labour?

"I'm leading a long term growth strategy and I want my party to own that"

Cable concedes there are differences in the way the coalition parties approach economic growth. They look for tax cuts: he focuses on "where we have business failures" and investment in training.

4. Have the Lib Dems ever recovered from tuition fees betrayal?

It was "by far the most traumatic issue that we had to face as a party in government", Cable said. "We lost a lot of credibility because of it."

But he believes that his department has done a great deal to mitigate the effects of it, and to promote social mobility in higher education.

5. Could the Coalition split before the election?

"It's certainly possible", said Cable. But he would not be drawn further on the subject.

What do you think - would it be better for the Lib Dems to jump ship before 2015? Let us know in the comments below.