He reminded us that he worked for John Smith in the late 1970s, and went on to speak of the division of the “progressive left” over the balancing of the budget deficit, all those years ago. He then skipped forward to the modern day and stated that the time has come for the division of the left to end.
To me, this came across as a heavy hint that Vince intends to join Labour. At the Q&A, your correspondent fruitlessly held up his hand, in the hope of pinning Mr Cable down with the direct question: “Words not action, Vince. Do you intend to join the Labour Party?”
However, the chair’s wandering finger failed to point in my direction. Vince went on to antagonise us by scoring party political points. It seems that the heavy hints were mere flattery from a man who doesn’t fit in with the governing party, but doesn’t want to give up his oak panelled office.
Andy Burnham came next. This man has continually grown in stature since the leadership contest of last year. The point that stuck with me was intellectual and deserving of further thought.
Public service reforms under Blair always balanced the freeing up of the institution with the empowerment of the consumer. The Tories, on the other hand, free up the institution without concern for the consumer. Their reforms are in the interest of capital at the expense of the people.
Peter Hain came next. He spoke of his party reforms, which in my opinion were worthy but likely to be ineffective. His main intention is to open up the party to supporters who are not members, in order to tap into the energy of the masses, that served Obama so well in his election.
The problem with this idea is that it’s not new, nor sustainable. I remember working as a professional fund-raiser for the Labour Party during the early days of Tony Blair’s leadership. There was no shortage of contacts who gave us money but were not members. We did very well with them, but they are fickle. They are the ones who support us when we’re popular and drop us when we’re not.
His other idea was that we should be in the community, campaigning by doing good deeds. Again a worthy idea, but I do wonder, whether people would make the distinction between us and the lads doing community service, taking into account that they no longer have to wear orange boiler suits.
The panel came after lunch. I thought it was a shame that people didn’t give a good round of applause to Order-Order’s Harry Cole. Even though he offended us with his opinions, it was very good of him to come along and liven up the debate.
A Councillor from Wandsworth asked him to justify the Tory proposal to charge children £2.50 for entry to a local adventure playground. To much hilarity I called out, “Is it means tested?” Harry labelled the proposal “ludicrous”, proving that the Tories, like Vince, might be cynical and nasty, but they’re not politically stupid.