An article in yesterday's Guardian could be the beginning of Vince Cable's rehabilitation. For me the key paragraph is:
"We are actually a poorer country , mainly because of the banking crash, the recession that followed it and partly due to the squeeze we are under due to the changing balance of the world economy. Britain is no longer one of the world's price setters."
Thankfully no more moaning mantra about "the mess left by Labour" (although both Nick Clegg and Liberal Democrat News are still churning this out.)
This change of emphasis, from petty point scoring about the recent past to an awareness of the present realities, is to be welcomed. It is not the case that, even with the application of sensible Keynesian policies, the right "touch of the tiller" will restore prosperity as it was. Through the changing balance of the World's economies we are on the verge of economic changes as fundamental as the agrarian and industrial revolutions were in their own time.
Essentially we need to redefine prosperity. A look at Tim Jackson's "Prosperity without Growth" (Earthscan 2009) would be a good start, followed by an examination of what makes a happier society, via, of course, Wilkinson and Pickett's "The Spirit Level" (Penguin 2010)
I've read somewhere recently that the UK economy has now shrunk back to the level it was in 2007. Why is that a cause for "shock horror"? I had a very comfortable standard of living in 2007 (and in 1997 and 1987 come to that)and so did the overwhelming majority of others in the UK. The per capita income in the UK is around £22 000. That's per man, woman and child, including the babies, or £88 000 for a family of four if it were evenly shared out. Of course it is not shared out absolutely evenly, and few would want it to be, but more generosity from the haves would mean that the have nots could live a life of dignity, and there's still be plenty left over for us to contribute 0.7% of GNP to Third World development.
Our political debate has not even begun to examine these issues: Vince's realism is a small step in the right direction.