Vince Cable

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The Right Honourable
Sir Vince Cable
Vince Cable (2013).jpg
Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills
In office
12 May 2010 – 11 May 2015
Prime Minister David Cameron
Preceded by The Lord Mandelson
Succeeded by Sajid Javid
Leader of the Liberal Democrats
In office
15 October 2007 – 18 December 2007
Preceded by Ming Campbell
Succeeded by Nick Clegg
Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats
In office
2 March 2006 – 26 May 2010
Leader Ming Campbell
Nick Clegg
Preceded by Ming Campbell
Succeeded by Simon Hughes
Liberal Democrats Treasury Spokesperson
In office
12 June 2003 – 11 May 2010
Leader Charles Kennedy
Ming Campbell
Nick Clegg
Preceded by Matthew Taylor
Succeeded by Position abolished
Liberal Democrats Trade Spokesperson
In office
9 August 1999 – 12 June 2003
Leader Charles Kennedy
Preceded by David Chidgey
Succeeded by Malcolm Bruce
Member of Parliament
for Twickenham
In office
1 May 1997 – 7 May 2015
Preceded by Toby Jessel
Succeeded by Tania Mathias
Personal details
Born John Vincent Cable
(1943-05-09) 9 May 1943 (age 77)
York, England
Political party Liberal (Before 1965)
Labour (1966–1982)
Social Democratic (1982–1988)
Liberal Democrats (1988–present)
Spouse(s) Olympia Rebelo (1968–2001)
Rachel Smith (2004–present)
Children 3
Alma mater Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge
University of Glasgow

Sir John Vincent "Vince" Cable (born 9 May 1943) is a British politician who was the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills from 2010 to 2015 and the Member of Parliament for Twickenham from 1997 until losing his seat in the 2015 election.

Cable studied economics at the University of Cambridge and the University of Glasgow, before becoming an economic advisor to the Government of Kenya between 1966 and 1968 and to the Commonwealth Secretary-General in the 1970s and 1980s. From 1968 to 1974 he lectured in economics at Glasgow University. Later, he served as Chief Economist for Shell from 1995 to 1997. In the 1970s Cable was active in the Labour Party, becoming a Labour Councillor in Glasgow. In 1982 he joined the Social Democratic Party – which later joined with the Liberal Party to form the Liberal Democrats – and he unsuccessfully stood for Parliament in the general elections of 1970, 1983, 1987 and 1992 before being elected as the MP for Twickenham in 1997.

Cable became the Liberal Democrats Treasury Spokesman in June 2003, and was elected Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats in March 2006, becoming Acting Leader for two months in 2007 following Sir Menzies Campbell's resignation until the election of Nick Clegg. He resigned from both of these position in May 2010 after becoming Business Secretary.[2]

He was knighted in the 2015 Dissolution Honours Lists on 27 August 2015.[3]

Early life and education

Cable was born in York to a working class Tory family.[4] His father, Len, was a craftsman for Rowntree and his mother packed chocolates for Terry's.[4] Cable attended Nunthorpe Grammar School. He then went to Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, where he initially studied Natural Sciences and later switched to Economics.[5] He was the President of the Cambridge Union in 1965. He was also a committee member and later President-elect of the Cambridge University Liberal Club, however he resigned from the Liberals before taking up the office of President.[6]

After graduating in 1973 with a PhD in Economics from the University of Glasgow on economic integration and industrialisation,[7] Cable studied further at the University of Cambridge, where he was appointed an Overseas Development Institute Fellow (ODI Nuffield Fellow) before working in Kenya.[8]

Economics career

Cable lectured for a time at the University of Glasgow and was a Visiting Research Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Global Governance at the London School of Economics, for a 3-year period until 2004.[9]

From 1966 to 1968, he was a Treasury Finance Officer to the Kenyan Government.[10]

In the 1970s, he was special advisor to John Smith when the latter was Industry Secretary. He was an advisor to the British government and then to the Commonwealth Secretary-General in the 1970s and 1980s.

Cable served as Chief Economist for the oil company Royal Dutch Shell from 1995 to 1997. His role at Shell came under scrutiny as the company was accused of playing a role in a turbulent era of Nigerian politics.[11]

Political career

Early years

At university, Cable was a member of the Liberal Party but then joined the Labour Party. In 1970, he unsuccessfully contested Glasgow Hillhead for Labour, and later became a Glasgow Councillor. In 1979, he sought the Labour nomination for Hampstead, losing to Ken Livingstone, who was unsuccessful in taking the seat.

In February 1982, he joined the recently created Social Democratic Party (SDP). He was the SDP-Liberal Alliance parliamentary candidate for his home city of York in both the 1983 and 1987 general elections. Following the 1988 merger of the alliance, he lost his 1992 general election bid as a Liberal Democrat to unseat Conservative MP Toby Jessel in the Twickenham constituency.

Member of Parliament (1997–2015)

Cable's constituency office

Cable entered the House of Commons after unseating Conservative MP Toby Jessel in the Twickenham constituency at the second attempt, in the 1997 general election. He subsequently increased his majority in the elections of 2001, 2005 and increased still further in 2010. He lost his seat in 2015.

In 2004, Cable contributed to the Orange Book. However, he describes himself as being a social democrat.[12]

Prior to the 2005 Liberal Democrat party conference, Cable did not rule out the possibility that the Lib Dems might form a coalition government with the Conservative Party in the event of a hung parliament at the forthcoming general election. Then Lib Dem Leader Charles Kennedy said that the party would remain an "independent political force".[13]

In late 2005 or early 2006, Cable presented Charles Kennedy a letter signed by eleven out of the twenty-three frontbenchers, including himself, expressing a lack of confidence in Kennedy's leadership of the Liberal Democrats. On 5 January 2006, because of pressure from his frontbench team and an ITN News report documenting his alcoholism, Charles Kennedy announced a leadership election in which he pledged to stand for re-election. However, he resigned on 7 January. Cable passed on the opportunity to run for the party leadership himself, instead supporting Sir Menzies Campbell's candidacy.


A Twickenham resident, Cable commuted by train into central London daily and so claimed the 'London Supplement' instead of the Additional Costs Allowance. However, the Daily Telegraph reported in May 2009 that he had been unaware that he was entitled to the London Supplement and so in 2004 wrote to the Fees Office to ask if he could receive retrospective payments for 2002–03 and 2003–04. The Fees Office refused the request, informing Cable that these accounts were already closed.[14]

When overall MP allowances are ranked, Cable came in 568th for 2007–08 (out of 645 MPs). The Daily Telegraph also noted that he did not take a recent 2.33% salary rise.[14]

Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats (2006–2010)

Cable with Liberal Democrats leader Nick Clegg, 2009.

Cable won plaudits for his repeated warnings and campaigns on the high level of personal debt in Britain.[15] His was a significant voice of criticism during the Northern Rock crisis, calling for the nationalisation of that bank, capitalising on the claimed indecisiveness of both the Labour Government and Conservative Opposition on the issue.

In May 2010, Cable declared his resignation as Deputy Leader to dedicate more time to his Cabinet role as Business Secretary. His responsibilities and authority were somewhat reduced when it was revealed in December 2010 that he had boasted to Daily Telegraph reporters posing as constituents of his "nuclear option" to bring the government down by his resignation. Still worse he claimed to the reporters that he had "declared war" on Rupert Murdoch of News Corporation despite having the responsibility to impartially arbitrate on the News Corporation bid to acquire the remaining 60.9% of BSkyB it did not already own. Amid cries for his resignation or sacking, all his responsibilities concerning the bid were removed. Cable did not resign.

Following the earlier example of Ann Widdecombe, Cable appeared as a contestant in the BBC's Christmas 2010 Strictly Come Dancing contest but failed to win.[16]

Acting leader of the Liberal Democrats (2007)

With the resignation of Sir Menzies Campbell as Party Leader on 15 October 2007, Cable being Deputy Leader automatically succeeded him as Party Leader pending a leadership election. Asked on Channel 4 News that day by Jon Snow whether he would be a candidate for the leadership, he refused to rule himself in or out at such an early stage, but a few days later did rule himself out.

Cable received significant acclaim during his tenure as Acting Party Leader, with particular praise for his strong performances at Prime Minister's Questions.[17] He was popular in the party and media for his attacks on the government's record over Northern Rock, HMRC's loss of 25 million individuals' child benefit data and the party funding scandal surrounding David Abrahams' secret donations to the Labour Party. The latter attracted for Cable positive media attention for a joke at PMQs describing Gordon Brown's "remarkable transformation in the last few weeks from Stalin to Mr Bean, creating chaos out of order rather than order out of chaos", called by The Economist, "the single best line of Gordon Brown's premiership".[18]

Views on the financial crisis

Vince Cable in March 2008

Cable is credited by some with prescience of the global financial crisis of 2007–2010. In November 2003, Cable asked Gordon Brown, then Chancellor, "Is not the brutal truth that ... the growth of the British economy is sustained by consumer spending pinned against record levels of personal debt, which is secured, if at all, against house prices that the Bank of England describes as well above equilibrium level?" Brown replied, "As the Bank of England said yesterday, consumer spending is returning to trend. The Governor said, 'there is no indication that the scale of debt problems have ... risen markedly in the last five years.' He also said that the fraction of household income used up in debt service is lower than it was then."[19]

In his book The Storm, Cable writes, "The trigger for the current global financial crisis was the US mortgage market and, indeed, the scale of improvident and unscrupulous lending on that side of the Atlantic dwarfs into insignificance the escapades of our own banks." In an interview about the book, Cable was asked whether he had warned about this. Cable replied, "No, I didn’t. That’s quite true." He continued, "But you’re quite right, and one of the problems of being a British MP is that you do tend to get rather parochial and I haven’t been to the States for years and years, so I wouldn’t claim to have any feel for what’s been going on there."[20]

Cable has also been vocal over the bonus culture in the banking system. He has called for bonuses to all bank employees to be frozen.[21]

However, Cable has been criticised by some, mostly Conservatives, for 'flip-flopping'[22] on issues in connection with the crisis. For example, he is accused of criticising the Government's policy of Quantitative Easing, when in January 2009 he used the phrase "the Robert Mugabe school of economics",[23] while in March 2009 he said, "directly increasing the amount of money flowing into the economy is now the only clear option".[24] The Liberal Democrats also have responded that he was making the point that QE "needed to be managed with a great deal of care".[25]

On the issue of fiscal stimulus, Cable told the BBC in October 2008, "it is entirely wrong for the government to assume the economy should be stimulated by yet more public spending rather than tax cuts".[26] In February 2009, however, he said, "we believe – and the Government say that they believe – in the need for a fiscal stimulus. Despite the severe financial constraints on the public sector, we believe that such a stimulus is right and necessary".[27]

On the principle of the independence of the Bank of England, Cable said at the 2008 Liberal Democrat party conference, "The Government must not compromise the independence of the Bank of England by telling it to slash interest rates."[28] The following month, though, he called on the Chancellor to urge the Governor of the Bank to make "a large cut in interest rates".[29] The Liberal Democrats have responded that this in no way changes their policy on Bank of England independence.[25]

Coalition government minister (2010–15)

Cable autographing a copy of his book, The Storm

At the 2010 General Election Cable was again returned as MP for Twickenham. With the election resulting in a hung parliament, Cable was a key figure in coalition talks, particularly the unsuccessful negotiations with the Labour Party. The Liberal Democrats entered a coalition agreement with the Conservative Party on 11 May 2010, and Cable was appointed Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills on 12 May. The Queen approved his appointment as a Privy Counsellor, and he formally joined the Privy Council on 13 May 2010.[30][31][32]

In May 2010, Cable insisted the Coalition Government was not split over planned increases to non-business Capital Gains Tax, which some thought would raise taxes on sales of second homes by 40% or 50%. Senior Tory MPs attacked the rise as a tax on the middle classes and a betrayal of Conservative values. Cable told BBC News it was a "key" part of the coalition deal and there was no disagreement over it between the coalition partners. Cable said the changes to Capital Gains Tax would help to fulfil the Lib Dem aim of bringing more "fairness" to the tax system: "It's very important that we have wealth taxed in the same way as income."[33] He continued,

At present it is quite wrong and it is an open invitation to tax avoidance to have people taxed at 40% or potentially 50% on their income, but only taxed at 18% on capital gains; it leads to large scale tax avoidance so for reasons of fairness and practicality, we have agreed that the capital gains tax system needs to be fundamentally reformed."[33]

He insisted there was no real disagreement at the top of government over the changes: "It's not actually an argument between the coalition partners, as I understand it, it's an argument between a few Conservative backbenchers and others".[33]

In July 2010, Cable dismissed claims that there "isn't a problem" with credit lines. He demanded that banks curb bonus payments and use the cash to boost lending instead. A green paper on bank lending that Cable launched on 26 July 2010 specifically urged banks to limit bonus and dividend payments to "pre-crisis and 2009 levels respectively". The green paper states that the move would enable banks to retain £10bn of additional capital in 2010 could in turn sustain £50bn of new lending. Cable's demands came as the Forum of Private Business said that small firms were finding it harder to secure loans. The trade body said its latest Economy Watch survey found that there was a "significant demand" not being met by banks with conditions worsening in recent weeks. The FPB said that 1pc of respondents said access to finance has improved, compared to 3pc in May, and 15pc said it has worsened. In addition, 67pc said they had seen no changes in their ability to secure loans.[34]

The British left wing press has often been critical of his role in the Coalition, from The Guardian[35] to the communist daily The Morning Star describing him as "the man who started off a Lib Dem and now looks more convincingly Tory than most of the Tory frontbench" for his role in supporting public spending cuts.[36]

In September 2010, during a speech to the Lib Dem conference, Cable said that bankers present more of a threat to Britain than Trade Unions. Cable said that "The Government's agenda is not one of laissez-faire. Markets are often irrational or rigged. So I am shining a harsh light into the murky world of corporate behaviour. Why should good companies be destroyed by short-term investors looking for a speculative killing, while their accomplices in the City make fat fees? Why do directors forget their duties when a fat cheque is waved before them? Capitalism takes no prisoners and kills competition where it can."[37]

After the interim report on banking by Sir John Vickers was published in April 2011, Cable said: "I read it over the weekend and I was very impressed with the quality of the analysis. "It does address head on the issue of banks that are too big to fail, the dependency on the government guarantee. It makes the case for separation," he added.[38]

In June 2011 Cable said "rewards for failure" were unforgivable at a time when real wages were being squeezed across the country. Speaking yesterday at the Association of British Insurers' biennial conference, the Liberal Democrat Cabinet Minister warned he planned to bring "excessive and unjustified" pay under control by launching a fresh consultation into the subject next month. "Britain does have some world-class executives and one of the real privileges of my job is dealing with them," he said. "But let's not forget that, using the FTSE 100 as a benchmark, investors have barely seen a return since the turn of the century. For most of that time, they would have been better off investing in government bonds. "And yet, in 2010, average total pay for FTSE 100 chief executives was 120 times that of the average UK employee. Back in 1998, the multiple was 45."[39]

In January 2012 Cable told the House of Commons: "We cannot continue to see chief executives' pay rising at 13% a year while the performance of companies on the stock exchange languishes well behind." Cable said companies would be required to publish "more informative remuneration reports" for shareholders. There would be an obligation to highlight notice periods for executives that were longer than a year, and substantial exit packages. He also suggested moves to ensure that remuneration committees were more diverse – including potentially two members who had not served on boards before. "I want to see more people appointed to boards who come from different backgrounds," he said.[40]

December 2010 Daily Telegraph comments

In late December 2010, undercover reporters from The Daily Telegraph, posing as constituents, set up a meeting with Cable, who expressed frustration with being in the coalition and compared it to "fighting a war"; he stated he had "a nuclear option... if they push me too far then I can walk out and bring the government down and they know that", and had to "pick" his fights carefully. He also claimed the Liberal Democrats had pressed for a "very tough approach" to the UK's banks, which had been opposed by the Conservatives. He described the coalition's attempt at fast, widespread reforms (including the health service and local governments) as being a "kind of Maoist revolution", and thought "we [the Government] are trying to do too many things... a lot of it is Tory inspired. The problem is not that they are Tory-inspired, but that they haven’t thought them through. We should be putting a brake on them." When his comments appeared in the press, Cable stated, "Naturally I am embarrassed by these comments and I regret them", before reaffirming his commitment to the Coalition Government, stating that "I am proud of what it is achieving".[41][42]

In an undisclosed part of the Daily Telegraph transcript given to the BBC's Robert Peston by a whistleblower unhappy that the Daily Telegraph had not published Cable's comments in full, Cable stated in reference to Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation takeover bid for BSkyB, "I have declared war on Mr Murdoch and I think we are going to win."[43] Following this revelation Cable had his responsibility for media affairs – including ruling on Murdoch's takeover plans – withdrawn from his role as business secretary.[44] In May 2011 the Press Complaints Commission upheld a complaint regarding the Telegraph's use of subterfuge: "On this occasion, the commission was not convinced that the public interest was such as to justify proportionately this level of subterfuge."[45]

Cable's stature in the Government grew since then, being dubbed "the moral centre of this Coalition" by Peter Oborne, chief political commentator at the Daily Telegraph.[46]

Royal Mail sale

As business secretary Cable oversaw the privatisation of the Royal Mail in 2013. The share price increased by 38% within a day and 70% in a year. The National Audit Office said that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills was too cautious when setting the sale price, but that a planned postal workers' union strike also affected the government's sale price. Cable refused to apologise, and said that the Government had been right to take a cautious approach, pointing out that the sale had raised £2bn for the taxpayer, with a further £1.5bn from the 30% stake in Royal Mail which it had retained. The NAO also noted that some "priority investors", had made significant profits following the sale, having been allocated more shares in the belief that they would form part of a stable and supportive shareholder base. However, almost half of the shares allocated to them had been sold within a few weeks of the sale.[47]

Post-ministerial career

Cable lost his seat, previously considered safe, to the Conservative candidate Tania Mathias in the United Kingdom general election, 2015.[48] He lost his majority of 12,140, and lost to Mathias by 2,017 votes.[49]

Personal life

Cable's first wife was Olympia Rebelo, a Goan Roman Catholic, whom he met "in the unromantic setting of a York mental hospital where we happened to be working as nurses during a summer holiday."[50] They had three children together and she completed her PhD at Glasgow University in 1976.[51]

Olympia Cable was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after the 1987 general election. After apparently successful treatment the disease returned in the mid-1990s and by the 1997 election. Olympia Cable died shortly after the 2001 election.

In 2004, he married Rachel Wenban Smith. When appearing on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs programme in January 2009, Cable revealed that he wears the wedding rings from both of his marriages.[52]

A keen ballroom dancer, Cable long expressed his desire to appear on the BBC's hit television show Strictly Come Dancing;[53] he appeared on the Christmas 2010 edition of the show, partnered by Erin Boag and dancing the Foxtrot. He performed well and scored 36/40 from the judges, including a mark of 10/10 from head judge Len Goodman. Cable was the second politician to appear on the show, after Ann Widdecombe.[54]

Cable is a Patron of the Polycystic Kidney Disease Charity (PKD)[55] and is also a Patron of the Changez Charity.[56]

Cable’s elder grandson is social activist and entrepreneur Ayrton Cable.

Vince Cable was knighted in the 2015 Dissolution Honours List and Received the Insignia of a Knight Bachelor during an Investiture at Buckingham Palace on 18 December 2015.[57]

Styles and titles

  • Mr Vincent Cable (9 May 1943 – 1973)[58]
  • Dr Vincent Cable (1973 – 1 May 1997)
  • Dr Vincent Cable MP (1 May 1997 – 13 May 2010)
  • The Rt Hon. Dr Vincent Cable MP (13 May 2010 – 30 March 2015)
  • The Rt Hon. Dr Vincent Cable (30 March 2015 – 26 August 2015)
  • The Rt Hon. Sir Vincent Cable (from 27 August 2015)

See also


  • The Storm: The World Economic Crisis and What it Means Vincent Cable (Atlantic Books, 2009) ISBN 1-84887-057-4
  • The Orange Book: Reclaiming Liberalism edited by David Laws and Paul Marshall; contributions by Vincent Cable and others (Profile Books, 2004) ISBN 1-86197-797-2
  • Regulating Modern Capitalism (Centre for Reform Papers) Vincent Cable (Centre for Reform, 2002) ISBN 1-902622-36-7
  • Commerce (Liberal Democrat Consultation Papers) Vincent Cable (Liberal Democrat Publications, 2002) ISBN 1-85187-688-X
  • Globalization: Rules and Standards for the World Economy (Chatham House Papers) Vincent Cable, Albert Bressand (Thomson Learning, 2000) ISBN 1-85567-350-9
  • Globalisation & Global Governance Vincent Cable (Thomson Learning, 1999) ISBN 0-8264-6169-7
  • Preparing for EMU: A Liberal Democrat Response (Centre for Reform Papers) Vincent Cable (Centre for Reform, 1999) ISBN 1-902622-06-5
  • China and India: Economic Reform and Global Integration Vincent Cable (Royal Institute of International Affairs, 1995) ISBN 1-899658-00-9
  • Global Superhighways: The Future of International Telecommunications Policy (International Economics Programme Special Paper) Vincent Cable, Catherine Distler (Royal Institute of International Affairs, 1995) ISBN 0-905031-97-0
  • The World's New Fissures Vincent Cable (Demos, 1995) ISBN 1-898309-35-3
  • Trade Blocs: The Future of Regional Integration edited by Vincent Cable and David Henderson (The Brookings Institution, 1994) ISBN 0-905031-81-4
  • Commerce of Culture: Experience of Indian Handicrafts, Vincent Cable (Lancer International, 1990) ISBN 81-7062-004-X
  • Developing with Foreign Investment edited by Vincent Cable and Bishnodat Persaud (Routledge, 1987) ISBN 0-7099-4825-5
  • Economics and the Politics of Protection: Some Case Studies of Industries (World Bank Staff Working Papers Number 569) Vincent Cable (World Bank, 1984) ISBN 0-8213-0199-3
  • World Textile Trade and Production Trends Vincent Cable, Betsy Baker (Economist Intelligence Unit, 1983) ISBN 0-86218-084-8
  • Case Studies in Development Economics Vincent Cable (Heinemann Educ., 1982) ISBN 0-435-33937-0
  • The Role of Handicrafts Exports: Problems and Prospects Based on Indian Experience (ODI Working Paper) Vincent Cable (Overseas Development Institute, 1982) ISBN 0-85003-086-2
  • British Electronics and Competition with Newly Industrialising Countries Vincent Cable, Jeremy Clarke (Overseas Development Institute, 1981) ISBN 0-85003-076-5
  • Evaluation of the Multifibre Arrangement and Negotiating Options Vincent Cable (Commonwealth Secretariat, 1981) ISBN 0-85092-204-6
  • British Interests and Third World Development Vincent Cable (Overseas Development Institute, 1980) ISBN 0-85003-070-6
  • Britain's Pattern of Specialization in Manufactured Goods With Developing Countries and Trade Protection (World Bank Staff Working Paper No 425/8 Oct) Vincent Cable, Ivonia Rebelo (World Bank, 1980) ISBN 0-686-36204-7
  • World Textile Trade and Production Vincent Cable (Economist Intelligence Unit, 1979) ISBN 0-900351-85-3
  • South Asia's Exports to the EEC: Obstacles and Opportunities Vincent Cable, Ann Weston (Overseas Development Institute, 1979) ISBN 0-85003-068-4
  • World Textile Trade and Production Vincent Cable (Economist Intelligence Unit, 1979) ISBN B0000EGG8M
  • Import Controls: The Case Against Vincent Cable (Fabian Society, 1977) ISBN 0-7163-1335-9
  • Glasgow: Area of Need Vincent Cable. Essay in 'The Red Paper on Scotland' ed. Gordon Brown. Edinburgh 1975. ISBN 0-9501890-7-3
  • Glasgow's Motorways: a Technocratic Blight (New Society, 2 September. 1974)
  • Whither Kenyan Emigrants? Vincent Cable (Fabian Society, 1969) ISBN 0-7163-2018-5



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