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MAIL COMMENT: The Lib Dem who gives it to us straight

April 7, 2009 12:04 AM
By By Daily Mail Comment in The Daily Mail

This paper has never counted itself among the Liberal Democrats' most ardent fans. Yet on the current economic crisis, isn't there one figure in the party who has consistently outshone his opponents on both sides of the House?

Once again yesterday, LibDem Treasury spokesman Vince Cable proved more convincing than Labour or the Tories in outlining how he would fill the terrifying gap opening up in the public finances.

On the Labour benches, ministers remain in denial. Far from seeking to reduce the burden on taxpayers, they've been increasing it still further by pressing ahead with pay rises and recruitment in the public sector, while the revenue-producing private sector goes on shrinking.

Meanwhile, Labour Left-wingers speak of plugging the deficit with steep tax rises - but only, mind you, for those earning six-figure salaries or more.

If they really think the super-rich alone can fill an annual shortfall now estimated to cost every British family £1,250 per year, they are fooling only themselves.

The Tories are just as equivocal. True, Shadow Chancellor George Osborne mutters about the need to review the public sector pay deals agreed by Labour - but with no firm commitment.

Otherwise, he makes only the vaguest pledges to 'reconsider' spending programmes (unspecified, of course) and 'change the culture of Whitehall'.

Contrast that with Mr Cable's clear demand that we must slash spending on public-sector pensions, cut back sharply on our global defence commitments and overhaul the ruinous tax credits system.

He even has the courage to question Labour's aim to put 50 per cent of young people in higher education, saying it's 'almost certainly not affordable'.

Paradoxically, the fact that the LibDems are unlikely to form a government may give Mr Cable more freedom than his opponents to speak his mind.

But with his sure touch, he alone seems to recognise that the public are ready for some straight-talking about the need to cut back our grossly swollen public sector.