Wednesday 17 September 2008

Vince for leader?

Vince Cable has done much this year to earn his reputation as probably the politician who is most respected across the political spectrum. Still, Daniel Finkelstein's wildcard nomination for the Labour leadership (along with the abolition of the Liberal Democrats) may prove a smite impractical.

Vince did nominate John Smith and Tony Crosland as his greatest political influences in his thoughtful contribution to Sunday's Fabian and CentreForum fringe. The event ended up as a lock-out due to the level of interest, and was intelligent and good humoured.

As Andrew Sparrow noted, there may now be so-called Tory progressives but

It's hard to imagine a fringe meeting with the title "Tories and Lib Dems: allies or enemies?" being so cordial.

Where Finkelstein is on weaker ground is in his dismissal of the foundational principles of Labour politics. The progressive dilemma debate sparked by David Marquand is certainly one we should return to. Labour's successes in 1945, 1966 and 1997 came because it was able to forge broad governing alliances of the liberal-left.

But this hardly a moment at which to write off social democracy, which has a proud record of saving capitalism from its worst excesses. As Michael White notes in his Guardian wrap-up of the LibDem week, it is a strange day to be shrinking the state.

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