Coalition is 'difficult' and working with Tories is 'no fun', reveals Vince Cable

Share this article

Business Secretary Vince Cable has conceded that working with the Conservatives is "difficult" and that implementing the coalition government's tough agenda in the wake of the emergency Budget is "not fun".

• Vince Cable: Coalition requires effort (credit: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire)

Mr Cable, who is a former member of the Labour Party, has lifted the lid on the "emotional difficulties" he has encountered since assuming his place in the historic coalition Cabinet formed after the General Election.

He said adapting to the new political order had been "difficult", adding: "I don't think any of us pretend its not. Orientating myself into co-operation (with the Tories] has required effort and concentration."

The former deputy leader of the Lib Dems, who is set to unveil government plans to encourage banks to lend to businesses today, conceded that the government's programme was hard, but insisted that the survival of the coalition, although not guaranteed was "a very good bet".

"Government is not fun," he said. "It is not a joke. It is a huge responsibility because the decisions we are taking affect people's lives I really feel that.

He added: "If I go round looking apprehensive, then there is a good reason for it - the agenda is not fun. It is very tough, extremely tough."

Mr Cable's insight into the workings of the new coalition government came as a former government minister cast light on one of the discussions had by the Labour Cabinet in the run up to May's election.

Former chancellor Alistair Darling revealed he wished he had been successful in persuading his Labour colleagues that a rise in the rate of VAT was necessary to shore up the country's finances as they prepared the ground for the election battle.

The Edinburgh MP, who is currently the Labour Treasury spokesman, confirmed suggestions made in Lord Mandelson's recent memoirs that he had pushed for Labour to commit to the VAT rise in order to help fight the deficit and avoid putting up National Insurance - a commitment that gave the Conservatives a key campaigning tool.

According to Lord Mandelson, Mr Darling proposed upping the VAT rate to 18 or 19 per cent, and argued against Labour plans to specifically rule out the rise during the term of the next parliament.

Mr Darling said: "It's no secret, I said at the time and since Peter (Mandelson] has actually spelt out in gory detail, I'm not going to deny what was patently true."

Asked by the BBC's Andrew Marr whether the argument, which was eventually won by other Cabinet colleagues after it was blocked by Gordon Brown, was something he would have liked to have won, he responded: "Yeah, obviously."

Mr Darling added: "There's a choice really: you can put up VAT or you can put up an income-related tax which is what the National Insurance is. The advantage of VAT is it brings in a lot of money."

The former chancellor said he felt that Labour failed to make the case to voters for what it would do after the economy returned to growth.

"I've always been of the view that we won the war, if you like, against what was happening in the banking system, but we failed to make the case for what we would do when things returned to normal."

Back to the top of the page