Vince Cable returned to earth yesterday looking a little frayed at the edges with a message for the Lib Dem multitude – and maybe for our benefit too. He’d had an epiphany. “Tories are ruthless, calculating and thoroughly tribal”, he said in a revelatory tone. He’s right of course, but this is hardly new information. The Tories are not called the ‘nasty party’ for nothing. But what is revealing is that he felt he had to make the statement at all. Was he feeling aggrieved, was he trying to make an excuse for his party’s failings last week, or was he trying to bring the more naive members of his party to their senses?
It’s difficult to tell, but what is clear is that the Lib Dems failed to understand one of the basic tenets of warfare – ‘know your enemy’. Is it fair to call their coalition partners ‘the enemy’? Well, as the events of last week proved, the Tories are certainly not their friends.
In the heady days after the general election when the Lib Dems had their heads in the clouds and were lapping up the trappings of ‘power’, the Tories were planning and scheming, which is exactly what the Lib Dems should have been doing. To survive a coalition with the Tories and come out on top the Lib Dems needed to be as ruthless and calculating as their coalition partners. They were not, and have shown themselves to be naive and feckless. They have only themselves to blame for the predicament they now find themselves in.
It seems to me that too many politicians have little or no idea of what life is like in the real world. In the real world being ‘nice’ is seen as a sign of weakness. Respect comes from being ‘up to the mark’ and in command of your game. It’s not necessarily pleasant, but it’s reality.
Veteran city analyst David Buik made this comment on life in the City today when he retired in April: “If you’ve got good manners, warmth and kindness, you’ll never make it. You’ve got to eat nails for breakfast and spit rust out to really make it”. It’s not a world many of us want to inhabit, but life in politics is every bit as tough as life in the City, if not tougher. It’s a world for men, not boys. It would appear the Lib Dems are still in short trousers.