A few months ago I attended an event in Guildford where Vince Cable was the guest of honour (I blogged about it on Lib Dem Voice here). On that occasion he had to rush off and I didn't get a chance to properly meet him. Yesterday I attended another event where he was the main guest, this time a more intimate affair for business people in Islington (I run a business that has offices there) organised by Bridget Fox, the Lib Dem PPC for the area who I have previously interviewed for this blog and who had very kindly invited me.
There were about 25 people in attendance and the format was that Vince made a short speech and then took some questions/comments from the floor. He described it as an opportunity to hear what we thought and that these sort of events help inform him how people on the ground are experiencing things like the recession.
His speech was largely focused on the economy and the sort of things that we can do to try and recover from the recession. He used a metaphor of the UK being like a patient who had suffered a massive heart attack and was weakened but now trying to recover. Things like very low interest rates and quantitative easing are the very powerful medicine that has helped the patient through the crisis and kept him alive but they cannot be used forever and we now need to make some serious lifestyle changes to avoid it happening again. Although all metaphors eventually break down I think this quite a good one and it makes it easy for people to grasp what he is saying. I expect he hear this way of describing things popping up during the ensuing election campaign.
When it came to questions I did manage to ask a couple. I questioned him about the recent surprise fall in unemployment and suggested that one of the reasons for this could be that many firms are reducing staff hours and/or salary rather than making them redundant. He agreed this was probably one reason and also cautioned that if things don't start to get better soon there is a risk that firms are viewing these measures as temporary and they will start to shed jobs again if confidence does not return. This of course could lead to the dreaded "double dip recession" scenario. I also asked what concrete measures could be taken to convince the banks to lend to viable businesses again, after all Alistair Darling has been pleading with them for two years to do just that to little avail. Vince's view is that the government should take a more hands on approach with the banks that it partially or wholly owns and ensure they hit targets for lending.
Afterwards I managed to have a brief chat with the great man himself. I am standing in a local council by-election here in Sandhurst in the Bracknell constituency and he wished me luck. He suggested that if I could win the seat (we currently have no councillors in this area) then that can be a good foundation to build upon for the future. He didn't go so far as to volunteer to come and help me campaign though! I suspect he is in very high demand so I will let him off this time!
All in all it was a good event and I also met and had some interesting discussions with other political and business people in the Islington area.