Published on 7 May 2011 Sections ,

Vince Cable: Tories are ‘ruthless, calculating and tribal’

Vince Cable describes the Conservatives as “ruthless, calculating and tribal” following the AV referendum. But the Business Secretary tells Channel 4 News he is not deterred from working with them.

Vince Cable describes the Tories as 'ruthless, calculating and tribal' following AV referendum and elections (Reuters)

Britain’s voters overwhelmingly rejected calls to switch to the Alternative Vote system.

More than twice as many of the 42 per cent of voters who turned out said they would rather keep the present first-past-the-vote system than switch to AV.

Senior Lib Dems are angry about the way the Conservatives campaigned for a No vote, personally targeting Nick Clegg for taking what they said were difficult decisions in the interests of the Coalition.

Vince Cable told Channel 4 News Political Editor Gary Gibbon that he had been fighting the Tories politically for decades and had learnt nothing new from the way they campaigned.

He said: “We’ve been reminded when they feel under pressure they are ruthless, calculating and really rather tribal.

“That’s the way they are and always have been and I certainly wasn’t the least bit surprised, nor am I deterred from working with them given that we have an overriding national interest to sort out this economic mess.”

Nick Clegg said the result in the AV referendum was “a bitter blow” but insisted the coalition would continue and the Liberal Democrats would “move on” from their setback.

Tories with a twist?

Vince Cable admitted there was a lot of anger and frustration from voters which was expressed at the Lib Dems’ expense.

But he denied the party had become the Tories with a twist: “We clearly are not Conservatives and have a very distinct agenda.

Read more: could AV loss halt NHS reforms?

“We have, within the Coalition, delivered things which a Conservative Government would never have been inclined to do … concentrating on people in low and middle incomes and lifting them out of tax, or reversing Mrs Thatcher’s policy of taking pensioners away from the earnings link.”

He added: “That hasn’t got through to the public and we’ve not been successful in communicating that and we’ve got to work on that.”

Future reforms

Speaking on future reforms Vince Cable denied the Lib Dems were looking for handouts or concessions from the Conservatives.

He said “We have a Coalition agreement which is good and solid and reflects the inputs from both parities.

“We’ve got to deliver that and prevent major departures from it and where the Liberal Democrats have achieved something within that framework we’ve got to make sure the country knows about it.”

Speaking on reform of the House of Lords the Business Secretary added: “The Commons has argued for some years that we’ve got to have reform … now how we do that, what kind of voting system achieves that is something we have to debate.”