Cable: We are at war

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionThe Business Secretary Vince Cable has painted a gloomy picture of the country's economic prospects at the Liberal Democrat conference

"We now face a crisis that is the economic equivalent of war."

So says Vince Cable. In so doing, he has revealed that the real issue this Party Conference season is not the public debate about whether to cut taxes on the rich or the rest of us but the private angsting about how to get the British economy growing again.

Vince defended the government's tough deficit reduction programme:

"Financial discipline is not ideological; it is a necessary precondition for effective government" whilst at the same time calling for a "stimulus to support recovery" because "the immediate threat is lack of demand - with consumers, companies and governments cutting spending".

So, how does Vince believe you can stimulate an economy without spending more money?

First, by leaning on the Bank of England to relax monetary policy further. He added that the government could act by stepping up infrastructure spending, using the so-called Green Deal to generate an estimated 100,000 jobs in energy conservation; encouraging private investment through the Regional Growth Fund and the Green Investment Bank; allowing councils to auction land with planning permission using the proceeds for social housing.

The question left hanging in the air was "what if that isn't enough?"

Vince told Lib Dems that his aides had read his speech and said they could see "grey skies" but not "sunlit uplands". Too bad, he clearly told them, I'm going to tell it like it is.

It was a performance that was part Eeyore and part Private Frazer from Dad's Army. At least, Vince will insist, it was not spin.