Well, readers, I hate to say I told you so -
but I did. And so it was that, with 36% of the vote and almost
unanimous agreement in the papers that in a better world, he would
not only be our next Chancellor but also take over the throne when
the Queen's turn is over, Vince Cable came out of last night's
Chancellors Debate looking more competent, more experienced and
far, far less silly than the other two.
But as Tory shadow Chancellor George Osborne rather meanly put
it during the debate, 'there's never going to be a Liberal Democrat
government' - so for now, at least, the man who should be in charge
of running the nation's finances, if not the entire world, is
forced to take the back seat while the other two battle it out
The debate was a polite affair: as someone on the
Guardian Daily podcast put it, this is what the media
looks like when you ask someone a question and let them answer
without interrupting. There were a few accusations, but generally,
the tone was mild; the questions were answered and the politicians
all left feeling they had done a jolly good job.
The only real moment of excitement came when Alistair Darling
reprimanded Osborne over his plans to put off a 1% rise in National
"For the last year you have been saying that you needed to cut
debt further and faster, and yet today, the first opportunity you
had when you thought you had identified some savings, instead of
cutting debt you have promised to change the National Insurance
contributions," Darling spat.
"You are spending nearly £30bn over a Parliament and you can't
identify the credible way with which you can pay for that.That
really is an irresponsible risk. It is poor, poor judgement."
Oh dear, George: although I can't help but suspect that
particular announcement had been rushed out somewhat after someone
at Conservative HQ realised unless there was some sort of solid
fiscal measure somewhere in Tory policy, Osborne wasn't going to
have a lot else to talk about during the debate.
Still: the point is, Cable, who can lay claim to having
predicted the recession, came out on top. Darling, who has gone a
long way to solving the recession, could certainly carry himself
with a certain amount of pride afterwards.
Osborne has yet to prove himself. While he didn't make any
stupendous gaffes during last night's performance, he certainly
didn't surprise anyone. His challenge now is to demonstrate to
voters he is experienced enough to lead the economy. Otherwise,
well, I know I'm not
the only person who believes there are others who might be
better suited to the job.