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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 22 April 2012
Vince Cable's memoirs do much to explain both the praise and the criticism he has received. At one point he writes how "I am often asked why I am not party leader...". Conceit or modesty? You can read that comment either way and it is easy to see why he produces such different views.

Views differ too over quite where on the political spectrum Vince Cable should be placed. As left-wing former Labour councillor with a line in anti-City rhetoric? Or a keen believer in free markets who wanted to abolish the Department of Trade and Industry? Cable himself admits the contradiction, pointing out how during his time working at Glasgow University and serving as a Labour councillor in the city he was arguing for socialism in the council chamber whilst teaching the virtues of free markets in the lecture hall.

The ambiguity of his political positioning is nothing new, and the book traces its origins to his time as an economist working on development issues in Africa. Cable eloquently recounts how that left him with a passion for improving society mixed with a distaste of the corruption and waste that can flow from centralised government planning and diktat. Crony capitalism as much as communism attracts his scorn.

What also come through clearly in the book is Vince Cable's individualistic instincts. He is a sociable and popular figure, frequently charming, but as his account shows is more comfortable in solitary roles that put him against the majority; he is a natural outsider rather than an insider. It is tempting to draw a parallel with his personal life. His marriage to Olympia was disapproved of by many relatives, casting them off in married life mainly on their own. Later her tragic struggle with cancer and her insistence that other people not be told of it against meant it was often a case of the two of them, and not many others, against the world.

So too in politics, where it has been the roles of `one person against the world' in which Vince Cable has prospered, both in his warnings about the state of the British financial system and economy ahead of the crash and in his highly successful stint as interim party leader. As the rest of the party was struggling through a leadership contest, he was off on his own being leader and holding things together in the face of a wave of challenges.

Not quite fully on his own, and to his credit Vince Cable frequently names and praises those backroom helpers and advisers who are so crucial to a politician's success. People such as Puja Darbari, Malinda McLean and Andrew Reeves get their much deserved mentions and accolades. Also featured is the subject of the late Andrew Reeves's favourite casework anecdote - the man who said he had invented an invisible battleship which was stolen from him by the Ministry of Defence and moored in the Thames outside the Houses of Parliament. Alas, Andrew never did get the chance to offer to meet him on site to inspect the battleship.

Cable's character traits were present early in his life, as when he field tested many different churches in search of God. He says that he found which had the best buildings and the prettiest girls but God proved elusive. That sense of intellectual curiosity, investigating options rather than accepting traditions, emphasising individuality and being an outsider to other people's cosy clubs has run all through his political career.
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on 19 January 2010
Born in York and brought up in an aspiring lower middle-class family, Vince Cable was educated at a local grammar school and Cambridge University, where he was president of the union. He began a science degree but later converted to economics and it is as an economic analyst and commentator that he has made his mark on British public life. Before that however he had spells in the diplomatic service in South America and as a senior adviser to the Shell oil company. He was a local councilor in Glasgow and in 1997 won the previously safe Conservative parliamentary seat for the London constituency of Twickenham. Always a small-l Liberal or social democrat he moved from the Labour party to join the Liberal Democrats and rose to be acting leader of the party and the chief critic of Gordon Brown in his days as Chancellor of the Exchequer. His capacity for clear exposition of complex economic issues won him celebrity and recognition as one of the few public intellectuals who could straddle the academic, business and political worlds.

Written with style and brio and not a little emotion, Vince Cable's account of his rise to the top echelon of British politics is a wonderfully informative and enlightening autobiography. I have to declare an interest since I was a colleague of his at Glasgow University in the 1970s, while my wife's closest female friend at the time was Vince's wife, Olympia.
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on 20 April 2013
this book would have been greatly improved if it had the benefit of strong editing skills. The early history of life in York is intimate and beautifully written with lots of insights as to what made the man he is today.

much of the rest is a very mixed bag. University life could have done with being expanded upon. His early years working, and getting into local politicsin Scotland are also well described and retain the interest.

but there is far too much impersonal detail in much of the rest. In short, not nearly enough of the personal ( with two wives and children the material is there but is never really adequately explored.

instead there is acres of arcane memories of his time at Shell and a very brief glossing over of current day lib dem politics and views on the coalition members (best bit is his view (I paraphrse!) that Osborne is an economic illiterate.

There is a brilliant book trying to get ot but, unfortunatley, doesn't quite make it.
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VINE VOICEon 5 January 2010
Vince Cable's autobiography is a well written, understated, chronicle and "reasonably honest account of what made and motivated one moderately successful politician." During the financial crisis Cable emerged as a source of common sense which invariably eluded that shown by the front benches of the Government and the Opposition. The reason is simple, whereas his opponents were politicians sticking rigidly to briefs provided by the civil service, Cable spoke from three decades of practical experience as an economist, his most recent post being chief economist of Shell Oil. In other words he was one of that rare breed - a politician who actually knew what he was talking about. His stock rose as a result and, when Michael Martin, was forced to resign as Speaker, Cable's name was one of those quickly in the frame. With characteristic modesty he pointed out administration was not his forte.

It was surprising to learn that Cable, who lectured at Glasgow University, was a member of the Labour Party at the same time that Martin arrived on Glasgow council. His political career went in fits and starts with commitment to the Liberals at Cambridge University and a switch to Labour in Glasgow. When Cable left Glasgow in the mid 1970's he walked away from politics and found work in the Foreign Office which gave him an insight into the way in which the civil service functioned. He worked as a special adviser to John Smith at the trade ministry but even Smith's contacts in Labour were insufficient to whisk him into Parliament. His return to the Liberal ranks arose as a consequence of the antics of the Far Left which spawned the formation of the SDP. Had he remained in Glasgow he may have remained a Labour supporter but Labour's internecine warfare in the capital was decisive in pushing him out of the Party, though not without regret.

Cable worked for the Kenyan government for two years claiming, "I cannot say, in all honesty, that I made a major, or even a positive, contribution to the development of Kenya. But Kenya made a massive contribution to mine." Cable's descriptions of the main political figures of the country are brief, candid and accurate, including the way in which whites and Africans shared a common detestation of Asians. His internationalism was reinforced on a personal level when he and his Kenyan born Indian girlfriend, Olympia, married in the teeth of opposition from the older generation in both sets of families. He worked for the Office of Overseas Development and the Commonwealth Secretariat. His knowledge and reputation resulted in his being head hunted in his mid forties to work for Shell International becoming its chief economist.

Although by 1987 Cable had concluded that he was unlikely to get into Parliament, a decade later was elected as MP for Twickenham. Re-elected in 2001 his success was overshadowed by the knowledge that his wife was in the final stages of cancer. She lived long enough to see him returned to the House and his description of her last months is filled with understated emotion. Although he remarried three years later he wears rings from both his marriages. Commenting on love he notes wryly, "We are rarely told that people in their fifties, sixties, seventies and even eighties fall in love...I now know that those things are untrue." He accepts the fact that both wives made sacrifices so he could pursue his "obsessive interest in my work as an MP".

Once in Parliament Cable sussed out the most effective use of time, maximising his opportunities while paying attention to local issues to maintain his majority. He regards this as important because the post 1997 Parliament is in his eyes, "an august institution much diminished in status and influence". He saw three LD leaders step down and quickly decided that his age was against a personal bid for the top spot, despite deputising with some style as acting leader after Ming Campbell's departure. He is, it seems, content with his present role in the LD hierarchy.

He observes, "A century on from Lloyd George's 1909 budget there is an urgent need for an approach to fiscal management which is honest, disciplined and redistributive". He concludes that "this is no time to quit," within the context of a belief, however tenuous, that the LD's can play a role in developing national policies so the country is not run by "charming but utterly inexperienced young men armed with only a sense of entitlement to run the family estate." Objectively, any future government of all the talents would invariably include Vince Cable as Chancellor but the chances of that happening are as remote as other politicians writing as good an autobiography as Cable has provided. Five stars.
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on 15 February 2013
In the introduction to Tony Blair's attempt to write recent history in A Journey we get this: "I wanted this [his own] book to be different from the traditional political memoir. Most such memoirs are, I have found, rather easy to put down."

Maybe, that is because most such memoirs are not about him, Tony Blair, God's great gift to humanity since the 1st century.

Cable's own memoir is very difficult to put down. For people who like books by politicians (and don't have predetermined prejudices) it's a very entertaining account. Chapter 5, Climbing Mount Kenya (about his experiences of working in Africa in the late 60s), is about as good a chapter as I have read in any book by a politician. I like his views of the expatriate staff, especially the UN, "though there was large amounts of dross: the UN 'experts' and miscellaneous consultants who cost a fortune."

But they are here (in the UK), too. Expensive ex-pats like Mike Carney, the next governor of the Bank of England, for around $1,000,000 a year. Maybe they should give him a harem, too. Might keep him out of trouble, unlike the former head of the IMF, DSK! Though he was a little cheaper at just $500,000 per year. What a bargain!
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on 11 April 2011
I'm not too sure what I expected from this book. I knew it was an autobiography, but before I read it I think I was expecting a different balance between the formative and active (?) parts of this book.

For the uninitiated, Vince Cable was the British politician who can most claim to being one of the first (if not the first) politician to see the banking and housing collapse coming. This probably come from the fact that, unlike many of his colleagues, he didn't enter Parliamnet fresh out of University, but had to work as an economist before finally gaining a seat.

The book is interesting, but as I said I'm not too sure about it. It's short and he doesn't miss anything out, but he's a member of a party that hasn't achieved a great deal till recently (and their most recent successes aren't covered here), so what's he really go to talk about?

His life is interesting in that he's got such a wide variety of interests (gained for broad travels overseas for the UN and Shell), but those of you who want more of an idea of the machinations of party politics should probably look elsewhere. Cable was once described to me as the "best Chancellor we'll never have" by a fellow Lib Dem, but he isn't the sort to give us the low down on salacious backroom deals.
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on 15 April 2013
I bought this book to find out more about the man who is often in the news and I was not disappointed .

It is an easy read and tells of the way he has seen life over the past years. One is given an insight into his life as a politician as well as his upbringing and family life. His first wife died when he was seeking after many years to gain a seat in Parliament, not as a member of the Labour party as he had been in his earlier years but now as a Liberal Democrat. He explains something of the joys and sorrows of being a constituency MP.

It is a good read and very well written. My only regret is that having been written a few years ago it does not take us into the story of life in a coalition government, but no doubt that account is still to come in the days ahead.
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on 8 April 2013
This book did a lot to renew my faith in (some) politicians.

It is a fascinating and self-deprecating autobiography covering the period up to about 2009.

The geographical, cultural and policial spread is quite remarkable.

The best Chancellor of the Exchequer we never had? Quite possibly.

He certainly has the ability, experience and integrity to be a Cabinet minister. However, in the present cabinet? I hope he has made a difference.

I have been wracking my brains - I can vaguely remember tutorials in the early 1970s at Glasgow University with an enthusiastic Yorkshire economics tutor who might well have been Vince Cable.

I wonder what happened to him!
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on 3 April 2013
I so enjoyed the eloquence of the use of the English language. His succinct paragraph about a school friend was a joy!

I cannot remember reading anything of such quality and such a high standard ever! Churchill eat your heart out. This politician is a master of writing!

His politics were not my reason for reading this ,but his calm common sense on the news when the rest of parliament (and the rest of us are outraged ) made me curious. I am now a committed devotee to this man's writing and hope there is more to come for many years yet.
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on 3 April 2013
Comes across as a slow- witted self effacing character without no great self confidence or internal drive all of which proves to be totally unjustified. However it does seem a pity that Mr Cable did not display rather more resolution to overcome some of his earlier set-backs and spent rather too much time following pursuits which fascinated him beyond contributing to his ultimate goal, which was clearly politics. Seems a pity as he should have got further faster in the political sphere. An excellent and entertaining read.
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