Sir Vince Cable: the veteran political dancer enjoying a late whirl

At 74, Cable is oldest leader of a major British political party in more than 60 years

Vince Cable
(Image credit: 2014 Getty Images)

In a political career spanning many decades, Vince Cable has waltzed across party lines several times – and partnered the Conservatives as business minister in David Cameron’s coalition government.

After losing and then regaining his Twickenham seat within the space of two years, Cable is now the oldest party leader in British politics following his appointment as head of the Lib Dems in July.

Name: Sir John Vincent Cable

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Born: Rather a long time ago, in 1943. Now 74, Cable is the oldest person to head a British political party since Sir Winston Churchill stood down from the Conservative leadership in 1955, at the age of 81.

Background: Cable grew up in York. He described his craftsman father as a “working-class Tory” who “introduced me to Conservatism at an early age”, in a 2005 profile in The Independent. But the young Vince didn’t like the “very nasty undercurrent of nationalism” that he detected in the Tory party. In 2013, Cable told The Daily Telegraph that his father campaigned for Margaret Thatcher, and revealed: “Indeed, he died delivering leaflets for her in 1981 in a snowstorm.”

University: Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, where he was president of the union and where he joined the Liberals. However, the party “booted him out for the ‘apostasy’ of trying to form an alliance with the university Labour Club”, he told The Independent.

Employment: Cable was an economics lecturer from 1968 to 1974, in Glasgow, where he joined the Labour Party, became a councillor and ended up a special adviser to John Smith, who was later party leader. In 1982, Cable left Labour for the then-SDP. Between 1995 and 1997, he was chief economist for Shell.

Family: Cable lives with his second wife, Rachel, in Twickenham. His first wife, Olympia, with whom he had three children, died of cancer in 2001.

Personal integrity: Cable was one of the few MPs entirely untainted by the MPs expenses scandal. Asked about it by The Daily Telegraph last year, he said: “It is something about which I didn’t feel particularly saintly. I just felt instinctively you don’t cheat the system.” He also told the paper that he believed MPs were well paid.

Worst political moment: MP for Twickenham from 1997 to 2015, Cable was unseated by Tory Tania Mathias. However, he won the constituency back in Theresa May’s snap election this June.

Any hobbies? Cable put his political credibility on the line when he joined the cast of the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing for a special in 2010. But ballroom dancing has been a lifelong passion for the politician – and he may have calculated that the public recognition could do him no harm.

In an article for the Daily Mail in 2009, Cable explained that “dancing is a great hobby and good for fitness”. He told The Daily Telegraph in 2013 that he still had a weekly dance lesson, at 2pm on Fridays. Whether he finds the time now that he’s party leader is not known.

Cable makes learning new tricks a habit: according to another article he wrote for the Daily Mail, in 2010, the Lib Dem boss learned to ski at the age of 64.

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