Vince Cable is no-one’s Shadow Chancellor

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.



Filed under Conservative Party, LibDems, Parliament

24 responses to “Vince Cable is no-one’s Shadow Chancellor

  1. Johnny Norfolk

    Whats in a name ?
    He has more idea about the situation than anyone from Labour. So all you can do is split hairs. What suggestion does your party have for the future to sort out the mess you have created. I know the Tory and Liberal message, but nothing from Labour as you have no idea except for fire fighting.

  2. Mo Daniels

    “…where they wouldn’t get in anyone’s way” Fantastic!

  3. Johnny, you don’t get it, do you? This is my blog. I’m the only person who decides what the posts are about. If I want to blether about Doctor Who, Star Wars, James Bond or House of Commons tradition, you know what? That’s what I’ll do. I don’t need your or anyone else’s approval to do so.

    If I feel like blogging on the economy or transport or any other subject, then I’ll do so. Keep tuning in, though, Johnny. Even the thought of the foam coming out of your mouth is enough to keep me amused for a long time.

  4. John Taylor

    Well, you don’t need anyone’s approval – but on this subject you get mine. Although, I do feel that this ‘confusion’ has developed as a certain Government has marginalised parliament to the extent that it is the media that now dictate these things as they please.

  5. richard

    I was always amused by the story (not certain how true it is, but certainly sounds true) that Tony Blair was called by the Palace the day he won the election to ask if Thursday was still good for his regular audience with the Queen. When he replied that he would try to make it as often as possible her representative suggested he look at the sign on the door to his offices(e.g.”Office of Her Majesty’s Prime Minister”) and reconsider his answer.

    Arrogance and a contempt for the institutions of government have long been hallmarks of the New-Labour project

  6. Martin Cullip

    “But there just aren’t enough Tories to fill up that front bench now”

    Admit it. You’re already thinking of the time when your decimated band will be snuggling up to the (il)Liberal (non-)Democrats, aren’t you?

    Is this an early call to have Clegg’s lot consigned further back so Labour aren’t to be made to look even more irrelevant post 2010? 😉

  7. Your post makes it clear how you feel about it all now. And you’ve posted before that you believe somehow that a two party state would perform better. Could you explain further how much less like an opposition you’d like the SNP and Lib Dems to behave? And to what end? Or are you merely obsessed with terminology rather than process?

  8. Patchouli

    Pedant to pedant, you may care to re-write your post. I like to get things done proper, too.

    Moving on. I’m pleased you are a traditionalist but I have to ask: why has the Labour party been hell bent on changing traditions?

    Why have you not delivered on making the House of Lords a fully elected second chamber, by now? For the record, I’m against this proposal but am using it as an example!

    Damn it, the dinner bell has gone off, again.

  9. Johnny Norfolk

    “This is my blog. I’m the only person who decides what the posts are about.”

    Well Tom this just is such a good representation of a Labour attitude. Of course its your blog, just like it must have been your bat. Of course you are in power.
    That one line tells you all you need to know and why your party has failed the country.
    You need to be more open minded when in power and consider and sometimes act on other peoples ideas.
    The point I was trying to make is that during the bits I saw of your conference and what I have read, there is no vision for the future.
    How are we going to get out of the mess, whats your action plan ? I would love to know.
    So when you had a go at Cable, I thought what are your plans as I have no idea. as i said it just looks like fire fighting.

  10. As I write this I have a strange gut-wretching feeling. (No,it’s not because I have just eaten at Patchouli’s wonderful little eatery on the Balls Pond Road!) It’s because I agree with you 100%.

    Oh, oh! The pacemaker has just kicked into overdrive.

    Vince Cable’s recent elevation to the level of a “God of Economics” has caused some mirth in the Diablo household. “We thought that title was reserved for that nice Mr Brown”, said the small, frail one who likes sitting in the corner and playing with the mice. “Don’t ever mention that man’s name in this hovel again! He is the devil incarnate and burning at the stake would be too good for him!”, screamed Mrs Diablo, as she grabbed away the tiny morsel of cheese he was nibbling at the time – it was his turn for it this week.

    In an attempt to calm the situation I suggested that, although the “dour one” had been described as “the greatest Chancellor of the Exchequer for 250 years” by that nice Mr Bliar, it was probably true that he had more experience than Mr Cable of running an economy into the ground and creating the worst economic situation for 250,000 years.

    Oh we laughed. We laughed so much we nearly cried – and then we remembered it was no joke!

    Unlike that weird, grinning Scottish bloke (she still won’t let me say his name) who has become the joke. Unfortunately, what he’s done to this country is no laughing matter.

    And there, young Tom, we will probably not agree 100%.

  11. Ani

    “I was always amused by the story (not certain how true it is, but certainly sounds true) that Tony Blair was” ……

    Reminds me of a story posted by a female regular at ConHome, something to do with village shopkeepers closing early due to a massive influx of light fingered gypsies.
    She wasn’t sure that it was true either, but posted it never the less.
    Isn’t there a word for that?

  12. Robert

    What is a word, Blair said he is new Labour, Brown says he is Labour, New Labour, Labour, ,my self I see Tories sitting on both sides.

  13. Ralph Perkins

    Actually the Lib Dems were granted a Front Bench by Mr Speaker at the 1997 election despite the best efforts of the Tories. And on Iraq, tuition fees, council tax, the environment, nuclear power, post offices, human rights, rendition, transport – they have proved themselves to be more of an opposition than the Tories. Get over it.

  14. John

    I have heard these debates before and I think that actually Ralph has a point. Parliament now considers them ‘Shadow’ spokespeople.

    Classic examples on this blog of the big two parties fighting to maintain their monopoly over the political system; even when it doesnt accurately represent the public at large.

  15. Victor, NW Kent

    I find myself in the unaccustomed position of agreeing with a Labour politician. I posted on the Adam & Co. Sky blog a couple of weeks ago that the titles of “shadow” Ministers could not properly be applied to LibDems. You mentioned Bob Spink Then what about the SDP – can they have a shadow Welsh Secretary?

  16. Will

    What a lot of nonsense Tom. I suppose this is why the official parliamentary website has a list of the Liberal Democrat Shadow Cabinet:

    The list includes:


    Yes the Tories are (for now) the official opposition, and the Liberal Democrats are the only other party to have a Shadow Cabinet. Other parties have ‘parliamentary teams’ and ‘spokespeople’.

    I can understand why you are annoyed though – Vince is doing a much better job holding you lot to account than Osborne!

  17. Hmm… I expect that list reflects what the Liberals like to call themselves. Fact is, Clegg is not in any sense the Leader of the Opposition so Vince can’t be Shadow Chancellor, though I’m sure he’s dead chuffed when others describe him as such.

    My worry is that if you start giving the Liberals hoity-toity names, it just encourages them.

  18. The parliamentary website is not “official” as in “word from on high”. The use of “shadow” there is because a webmaster has copied the list supplied by the Liberal Democrats.

    An Anti-Pope may have called himself Pope. That did not make him Pope.

  19. Andrew

    Ralph, to join the throng of pedants, Mr Speaker in 1997 was actually female and not referred to as Mr.

  20. Sue

    Vince is no doubt widely adored and may have more humility than to describe himself as Shadow Chancellor (just yet), but it isn’t unheard of for other Lib Dems to arrogate these titles to themselves.

    Curiously, they are often the ones who bark loudest about constitutional matters. So they ought to know better.

  21. But you seem stuck in a rut of believing one thing can be shadowed by only one other thing, and clearly this is a nonsense.

    Two people can shadow one person, indeed many people can shadow someone, two or more organisations can shadow one other organisation.

    And as for your comment about the how Liberal MPs used to take up a row at the back, well pardon the electorate for electing more MPs who are not Tories or Labour.

  22. NorthernMonkey

    Quite right Tom!

    I’ve always found this creeping title-giving to the Liberal Democrats rather curious.

    If they want to be referred to as ‘Shadow’ people then they should stop performing so horrendously badly at election time!

  23. It may be the incorrect ‘title’ but even though I a not a Libdem supporter, I have to confess, that when the current crisis started, Vince Cable made more sense than the rest of the other ‘chancellor’s!

  24. Pingback: The Bickerstaffe Record » Blog Archive » Mass confusion as Libdems forget their own names

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