I LIKE things done proper. I’m a traditionalist as well as a pedant.
So when I heard Vince Cable being introduced onto Adam Boulton’s show this morning as “The Liberal Democrats’ Shadow Chancellor”, I confess to taking issue.
Individual parties don’t have their very own “shadow” anything. The British constitution allows for a government and an Opposition. The Liberals like to refer to the Toiry leader as “Leader of the Conservative Opposition”. He’s not; David Cameron is Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition, and that’s a grouping that includes all opposition parties in the Commons.
Similarly, there is one Shadow Cabinet, and it is made up of Conservative MPs. There is no “Liberal Democrat Shadow Cabinet”. They have a front bench team (and I even object to their having a front bench of their own – traditionally Liberals used to lose themselves a couple of rows behind the front bench, where they wouldn’t get in anyone’s way. But there just aren’t enough Tories to fill up that front bench now, so it’s been taken up by Liberals).
Vince Cable is the Liberals’ Treasury or economic spokesman, but he’s certainly not anyone’s Shadow Chancellor. If he were, then that makes Bob Spink UKIP’s Shadow Chancellor, Shadow Transport Secretary and Leader of the UKIP Opposition. Which would be just as (but no more) silly.
Just so we’re clear.