Five years ago, it’s fair to say, not many people had heard of Dr Vince Cable, the former banker turned Liberal Democrat MP for Twickenham and, from 2003-2006, his party’s Treasury spokesman.
That all changed following Menzies Campbell’s resignation as Lib Dem leader in 2007. Cable, who had become deputy leader in 2006, took over in a caretaker capacity while the party elected a new leader and became a household name overnight thanks to his Prime Ministers Questions quip that Gordon Brown had gone “from Stalin to Mr Bean” in a matter of weeks.
He then served as new leader Nick Clegg’s deputy throughout the 2008-09 fi nancial crisis before being granted something that his party had not experienced for generations – a taste of genuine power on the national stage.
And so, following the coalition agreement of May 2010, Cable was appointed to succeed Lord Mandelson as secretary of state for Business, Innovation and Skills.
Just over a year on he topped the bill at September’s MADE: The Entrepreneur Festival. Despite him having an entourage to rival that of Mariah Carey, we managed to snatch a few minutes with him.
Just a few days before we caught up with him at the MADE Festival in Sheffield, he had given a keynote speech at the Liberal Democrat Party conference in Birmingham.
Despite him openly admitting that he had his doubts about the Coalition, Cable told his party’s conference he was “absolutely certain that, at such a moment, the country is stronger for having two parties in coalition working in the national interest”.
The business secretary went on to tell delegates that his job was to support businesses and promote British commerce in the “big emerging markets that have been neglected in the past”.
So when we caught up with him we asked to him to explain why some business owners feel that the Government is not doing as much as it could to support those who run their own business.
Cable, who has a degree from Cambridge and a PhD in economics from Glasgow University, claimed that the Coalition was doing its bit to help business owners and not “sitting back and doing nothing”.
He said, “We value entrepreneurs; indeed we need them, because if this economy is going to get out of the mess it’s got into because of what has happened in the past, the banking crisis and so on, it’s going to come through private investment, particularly export.”
Cable said that the recovery would not be driven by the Government – instead, it would be the “entrepreneur’s culture that this country is famous for” that will take Britain back into the black.
Cable went on to say that we, as a country, are facing the economic equivalent of war.
The minister admitted that Britain has got problems, but he was quick to point out that we are not the only country struggling at the moment. He did, however, say that the problems here in the UK were “less serious” than the problems that some of our European counterparts are currently experiencing. We’re not Greece, which is nice.
Cable said that the Government’s job was to “not make life more difficult” for business owners.
He added that the Government was trying to “get rid of as much regulation as we can”.
And he said that it was important to help businesses do the things that they were not able to do entirely on their own, hinting that more help on training and the development of technologies could be in the pipeline. So what else can be done to encourage entrepreneurship?
“There are various things that theGovernment can do and has to do to make it possible for entrepreneurs to flourish,” he said.
“We have to make our tax system as friendly to businesses as we can. There are about 9,000 pages of tax rules and the Government is trying to simplify this.” Cable said that enterprise academies in universities and further education colleges were a good thing, as these bring students, who want to get businesses going, together.
However, he stated, “I’ll make enemies saying this, but I wouldn’t strongly recommend doing business studies as a route into business.
“You need the basics: maths, working with numbers and language in order to succeed.”
He believes that entrepreneurship is not something you can learn from a business course. He was keen, though, to highlight the growing enthusiasm for manufacturing, something he claims used to have a “very bad image” in this country.
He wants firms to “source locally” and said there were many advantages in doing this.
“We are beginning to get repatriation of the supply chain to Britain and I think that is where a lot of our growth is going to come from,” he concluded.