Shortly after losing his seat in the 2015 general election, Vince Cable started writing a novel.
Though he believed his chances of returning to politics were “remote,” even as Open Arms, a political thriller about an arms deal, is published, he finds himself back in Westminster and the new leader of his party.
“I’m proud of the book, and I wish I’d done it earlier,” Cable said. His protagonist is an “independent-minded” female Conservative MP who becomes a Cabinet minister. “When I was a Cabinet minister, the two things that kept me sane were my weekly dancing lesson and having a pile of novels by the bed.”
He made for a congenial Book Festival guest, free from the bluster and bombast of many in his line of work. Whether talking about his book, or about wider political issues, he was thoughtful and considered. Predictably enough, the conversation quickly left the novel behind.
On Brexit, Cable offered hope to remainers, saying there is a “significant possibility” that it might not happen. With Corbyn’s Labour Party “on the same page” as the Conservatives with regard to a hard Brexit, he hoped that rebels from both main parties could join forces with the Liberal Democrats and the SNP, and “the thing could unravel”.
An economist, one of those who accurately predicted the financial crisis of 2007-8, he said the situation had improved but that we were “far from out of the woods”.
“We suffered the economic equivalent of a heart attack. The patient has been kept alive on a life-support system of cheap money, but at some point, the life-support will have to be disconnected, and we’re considering doing this just as we’re moving into the difficult period of Brexit.”
On the other side of the Atlantic, Donald Trump’s minions are being let loose on financial deregulation: “His motivation seems to be to let his friends on Wall Street off the leash, and the consequences could be very, very serious indeed.”
The gusts of wind whipping at the tent canvas were perhaps conjured a little earlier when two fine writers addressed the subject of wintry weather. Nature writer Jim Crumley’s new book, The Nature of Winter, is the second in a series of four, observing the natural world through the seasons.
Christopher Nicholson’s Among the Summer Snows is part nature book, part memoir about searching for the patches of year-round snow hidden among the Scottish mountains, and is “as much about life and death and love as it is about snow”.