The night of May 7th 2015 was a disastrous night for anyone involved with the Liberal Democrats. After five years of being in power with the Conservatives, the number of Lib Dem seats had fallen dramatically from 56 to a mere 8. Power in the Commons diminished, senior figures seatless; it was nothing short of a wipe-out. Vince Cable, an MP since 1997 and Business Secretary in the coalition government, was one of those senior figures ousted in May. Just under six months later he has a new book out, is spending time ballroom dancing, and on the whole is enjoying life away from Westminster.
For a man who is supposed to be retired, Sir Vince seems to be doing quite a lot. Borrowing a phrase from Tony Benn, he explains “if you want to do real politics, you leave Parliament; and I’m beginning to sense a bit of that, you know in the fact that I can spend my time engaging with more people.” He cuts a relaxed figure, and is more than happy to discuss politics, even that fateful night that will live long in his memories for all the wrong reasons. “Well it has been a big blow [leaving parliament], but it has an upside and I’ve had time to finish my book and all the work associated with it, I do a lot of speaking engagements, I’ve been doing some university work, some charity work.”
Now 72, and coming out of arguably the five most stressful years of his life, it’s quite a spectacle to see him talk so passionately about his time in government and about his proudest achievements. “I did lots of big things, you know, to do with industrial strategy… But actually, if you want me to isolate one thing – and it is quite a small thing – it would be that I managed to protect the budget for adult education, and in particular I got some money to use adult education for helping people with mental illness”. You get a sense that this is a politician who genuinely cared for the people he served, and it is refreshing to see.
His enthusiasm for his latest ventures are endearing to watch. ‘After The Storm’ which explains the causes of the global economic crisis, is his latest book to be released, although he explains he’s also in the process of writing a novel; “It’s politics, it’s a thriller built around an arms contract. I can’t say anymore; I haven’t worked out the conclusion yet!”.
Regardless of all of this, his one passion that remains his favourite is ballroom dancing. After appearing on the Christmas addition of Strictly Come Dancing in 2010, he naturally took a step back to focus on politics. But now retired, he explains how he has found much more time to dance, including at competitive championships. “On Saturday, I’m setting off with my wife to Blackpool because I’m in the Ballroom Dancing National Championships. It sounds more dramatic than it actually is because traditionally my age group isn’t quite as intense as yours, but yes, it’s quite a serious competition.” Could he ever be a judge on Strictly? “I don’t quite have the kind of extrovert qualities of a judge. It’s a good question actually! My style is more the kind of Len Goodman, which is sort of positive and technical. I mean, I also quite like Craig because he’s quite blunt.”
From just spending a few minutes with Sir Vince, it is evident he is a genuinely nice man: someone who went into politics wanting to do good, but is capable of having a laugh. It’s evident retirement has enabled him to do things he couldn’t due to political commitments, and it’s great to see he’s enjoying life outside of Westminster. We ask if there was a Craig Revel Horwood-esque character in the Cabinet, and like a shot he quips “Well, I suppose in the cabinet, Michael Gove had that covered; and he was equally kind of bright actually, a very able guy but somewhat villainous.”