Vince Cable is a British politician who served as leader of the United Kingdom’s Liberal Democrats (2017– 2019). Having previously held the posts of deputy party leader (2006–10) and secretary of state for business, innovation and skills in the Conservative – Liberal Democrat coalition government (2010–15).

Education and Early Career

Cable studied economics at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge (BA 1966) and served for two years as treasury finance officer in Kenya. Before returning to the UK in 1968, as an economics lecturer at the University of Glasgow, where he received a PhD in 1973. His political career was ignited in the 1970s in Glasgow; where he joined the Labour Party, served as a city councillor (1971–74) and became a close friend of and briefly adviser to John Smith, the future leader of the Labour Party.

Vince Cable served as an economist with the British government in the 1970s; and with the Commonwealth Secretariat in the 1980s. In 1982, objecting to the leftward movement of the Labour Party and its concession of greater power to trade unions and grassroots organisers; Cable joined the newly formed Social Democratic Party. When the SDP merged with the Liberal Party in 1988, he became a Liberal Democrat. From 1990 to 1997 he worked for the Shell Oil Company, ending his career there as its chief economist. In 1997 he was elected MP for Twickenham in West London, capturing the seat from the Conservatives.

Economist and Political Office

Cable’s long experience as an economist, in both the private and public sectors, led to his selection as a Lib Dem spokesman on finance. He used his position to secure a major switch in party policy, away from higher taxes and higher public spending. In 2006 his fellow MPs elected him deputy leader. (When Sir Menzies Campbell suddenly resigned in October 2007, Cable spent two months as acting party leader.) Cable’s warnings that levels of personal debt were too high and the banking systems of the UK and US were heading for trouble, prompted many in his party to encourage him to run for leader. But he declined to stand and remained deputy leader under Nick Clegg. When the Conservative – Liberal Democrat coalition was formed, after the May 2010 general election; Cable joined the cabinet and soon after resigned from his post as deputy leader.

Policy Making by Vince Cable

As business secretary he demanded, among other directives, that British banks curb their bonus payments to their highest paid employees and they revive lending to small business. He sparked criticism however, when he broke his election campaign promises to not allow any increase in university tuition fees. Once in office, Cable announced that fees would, in fact, be allowed to double; because of the urgent need to cut government spending in an effort to restore balance to the UK’s public finances.

In December 2010 Vince Cable was stripped of all responsibility for media and telecommunications policy. When he was secretly recorded “declaring war” on media mogul Rupert Murdoch; over a proposed takeover of the satellite TV operator British Sky Broadcasting by Murdoch’s News Corp. In 2012, bolstered by public attitude toward executive pay in the midst of the economic downturn; he called for more transparency and accountability in business. Introducing a measure to Parliament that would allow for curbs on exec pay, by giving shareholders a binding vote on executive salaries and bonuses. He was instrumental in the establishment of the UK Green Investment Bank. A government funded project created to encourage private sector investment in sustainable, energy efficient infrastructure, manufacturing and jobs.

In the 2015 UK general election, Vince Cable narrowly lost his seat to the Conservative candidate, Tania Mathias. In the June 2017 snap election however, he was returned to Parliament and in July he replaced Tim Farron as leader of the Lib Dems.

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