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An Audience with Dr Vince Cable M.P.

Sir Vince Cable, who won back his Twickenham Constituency seat in Parliament for the Liberal Democrats at June's general election, is now 74.
But at a time when many people would be thinking of enjoying a relaxing retirement, Sir Vince is clearly relishing his renewed opportunity to influence the future of Great Britain - and is doing so with the energy and enthusiasm that many half his age would envy.
He spoke to Mort Smith, our Features Editor, about his return to the cut and thrust of high level politics.
Sir Vince, who was Business Secretary during the coalition Tory-LibDem Government from 2010-2015, had promised his local constituency colleagues that if there was an early general election, he would stand as a candidate again. So when Theresa May defied all her promises and called the snap election on June 8, he kept his word and was delighted to be elected once again as the MP for Twickenham.
He said: "I think I have something to contribute during what I would describe as some of the most dangerous times this country has faced."
And following his return to Parliament, Sir Vince now has the added responsibility of taking over the leadership of his party and guiding it 'forward and upward.'
He said: "I think there is a big opportunity for the Liberal Democrats to fill the centre ground of British politics - particularly when you look at the internal chaos of the Conservatives who have compromised themselves through their pact with the DUP.
"I also think that the Corbyn bubble won't last as voters begin to realise just how pro-Brexit the Labour Party actually is and how bizarre their economic policy is. It is there for us if the Liberal Democrats can rise to the challenge."
He has gone on record as saying that he believes Brexit may not actually happen - and I asked him why he believes that to be the case.
"Well if you?d asked me that before I returned to Parliament I might not have given that answer but since I've been back and seen the chaos that surrounds the negotiations about the UK pulling out of the European Union it's clear to me that the Government is all over the place. Civil servants are in the grip of despair because of the lack of direction.
"Additionally, the economy has already started to go backwards and I think when people realise just what a backward step this is for the country, they will turn against the whole idea."
He believes that although the arguments about Britain staying in the single market and the customs union are significant, there are two less well-known issues which could well prove to be the major stumbling blocks for Brexit - Euratom, which relates to Britain's nuclear fuel industry, and laws relating to civil aviation.
"These are major problems that will have to be sorted out," he says "but they are both horribly complicated matters which it may well prove impossible to unpick."
He believes the legislation to extricate us from the EU is likely to become completely bogged down because of the draconian powers that the Government may try to introduce and that could end in a major Parliamentary revolt.
Apart from Brexit, Sir Vince also wants to see an injection of cash into public services particularly the NHS and school funding - but how does he envisage paying for those measures?
"We produced a radical but moderate manifesto for the recent election which set out exactly how we would pay for such improvements. Indeed our manifesto was the only one of any of the main parties that was approved by the Institute of Fiscal Studies as being practicable and achievable."
"We would increase income tax by 1p in the pound and spend that money on properly funding the National Health Service, including mental health provision."
"And we would reverse the tax cuts introduced since 2015 - mainly on capital gains for business - and use that cash to improve other public services."
Vince Cable's focus is also firmly fixed on issues affecting his own Twickenham constituency.
He told me: "I've got four main priorities as far as local issues are concerned but top of that list is funding for our local schools. We've got some terrific schools in this area with committed and enthusiastic teachers but they are all struggling financially at the present time.
"I've been visiting some of the schools in this area - I was at Hampton Juniors recently - talking to the staff and the children and letting them ask me questions. I'm committed to trying to ensure that they get the money they need to continue to provide a first-class education."
Second on his list are local health services and here, too, he has been busy since his return to Parliament.
"I've recently met with the Royal College of Nursing and I'm going to be visiting West Middlesex, Teddington and Kingston Hospitals to get the views from the people at the cutting edge on how they are coping in the present economic climate. I'm particularly concerned about the resources that are devoted to mental health services in our area," he added.
Heathrow Airport expansion plans are also high on Sir Vince's agenda and when I spoke to him, he was in the process of trying to set up a working party of MPs to take a look at plans for the third runway and to draw up questions to be fired at the relevant government departments concerning the future of our premier London airport.
Fourth on his list for local attention is the local railway system.
He said: "I want to find out why the promised improvements to Teddington railway station haven't materialised and I'm concerned that it seems plans for Crossrail 2 have been shelved. I'm going to asking questions about both those matters."
(Crossrail 2 would link Clapham Junction with Wimbledon and effectively provide a connection between north and south London in the same way that Crossrail is linking the western and eastern parts of the city).
Given the breadth of material requiring his attention and energy, I wondered what he did in his spare time - to which he replied: "I don't have any spare time."
About one thing I'm sure, Twickenham residents could not have picked a more enthusiastic or energetic man to represent them in Parliament. And I wouldn't bet against him being the man to lead the Liberal Democrats to new heights in the months and years ahead.
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What's On...

Events, shows, concerts, sporting occassions - month by month in your area -
What's On
Dec 7-Jan 7
Alice in Winterland Rose Theatre, Kingston A dazzling production based on Lewis Carroll?s timeless books (www.rosetheatrekingston.org)
Dec 16
Carols by Candlelight Landmark Arts Centre, Ferry Road, Teddington Celebrate Christmas with a programme of seasonal music, words and song (www.landmarkartscentre.org)
Dec 16-23
Courtyard Carol Singing at Hampton Court Palace Hampton Court Selected dates (www.hrp.org.uk)
Dec 26-27
Horse Racing Kempton Park, Sunbury Including the King George VI Chase (www.kempton.co.uk)