In the months since the end of the General Election - at which, like most LibDems, he had lost his seat - Vince Cable had written a book - or put the finishing touches to one long in preparation: he probably foresaw the Libdems' electoral disaster, and the disappearance of any personal need to hold his tongue. It was a book all about the economic battles within the Coalition. He was going to talk about it. I didn't of course understand economic theory one bit, but I fancied that he would be a good speaker and put his points across well.
This wasn't his first book on the financial fortunes of the country. Its predecessor was The Storm, the 'storm' in question referring to the looming financial crisis that became apparent to him in 2006, and gathered pace from 2008, involving the near-collapse of the banks and the ensuing recession. He said wryly that this latest book should be called After the Heart Attack, because essentially the country had suffered a financial heart attack, and was still only in the convalescent stage. Our money troubles were not yet over - as the book would explain. He said enough about the contents of the book to make you want to buy it and read his analysis very carefully.
But I was more interested in the man himself. It isn't often that you get a chance to see a politician so close up, and even though ousted from his position of responsibility, he would be an interesting study. Once again, I had a seat close to the front, and could see his expressions and gestures clearly:
This was just his opening address to the audience, before he sat down in the chair provided. He was supported and introduced by another MP who had lost his seat, local LibDem Nick Harvey:
There were some pretty intelligent questions from the audience, when the speaking was over. Obviously, Vince Cable had a record to defend - both his and Nick Harvey's really - but I got the impression that he was satisfied with what he had been able to accomplish while a big wheel in the Coalition, and was relaxed about it. So relaxed, that I suspected this 72 year old man had now stood down from elected party politics permanently.
He was the second 'political' speaker I heard at the Festival. Was he in any way like Ann Widdecombe? (See the recent post on her) No: chalk and cheese. They were from different parties and had different beliefs. Strangely united in just one thing - they had both appeared at different times on BBC TV's Strictly Come Dancing. Not a programme I had watched for years, so I didn't see either of them perform. But apparently light-footed keen ballroom dancer Vince Cable had done well out of sheer ability. More-ponderous Ann Widdecombe had described how, from the outset, her professional dance partner had decided that she must do as little footwork as possible - so she was danced around, held aloft, or suspended from wires. I'm sure she must have looked great in the costumes they wear for the programme, though.
Naturally I bought the book. However, the Festival organisers arranged the book-signing a bit too efficiently, and there was no chance to swap a few light-hearted sentences with him - and perhaps get a photo - at the signing-desk. Still, he wrote me a clear message:
Very best wishes,
Vince C XX
Two kisses? Well, you know, I seem to have this fascination for men...Vince and me...yeah...
But later on, I realised that the 'kisses' were in fact just the 'able' of 'Cable' - the man putting all his calligraphic effort into that rather impressive V-for-victory 'Vince' and slurring the surname into 'C-squiggle'.