They are calling it his ‘Diane Abbott moment’.
Former Liberal Democrats leader Vince Cable got his sums all wrong during an interview on ITV’s Good Morning Britain.
The ex-Cabinet minister attempted to explain his party’s policy on public sector pay to presenters Susanna Reid and Piers Morgan on Monday morning, but it didn’t go to plan.
He failed to give a straight answer when asked if the party’s plan would affect one million, two million or 5.4 million workers.
The excruciating discussion had echoes of Labour’s Diane Abbott’s own fumbling for figures during a radio interview on LBC at the beginning of this month.
Her mistaken explanation of her party’s plans to cost policing falsely indicated that officers would earn just £30 a year.
She wrongly suggested that Labour would pay for 10,000 new police officers with only £300,000.
Mr Cable, who is running for the Lib Dems in the general election next month in an attempt to win back his seat in Twickenham, awkwardly tried to explain his party’s policy on public sector to pay with little success.
The Lib Dems want to give teachers and nurses an average pay rise of £780 if they get into government, but Mr Cable failed to answer how many workers the proposal might affect.
Ms Reid asked him numerous times for a definitive figure.
He started by saying, ‘probably a million’, but Ms Reid then asked: ‘So about one million people? Five million people?’
Mr Cable then changed his answer to ‘about a couple [million]’, prompting Ms Reid to point out that there are 5.4 million public sector workers in Britain.
Mr Cable said his party’s plan was costed at £1.4 billion but he couldn’t say how many workers would benefit.
Mr Morgan interjected and said: ‘I’m a bit confused. Does that cover two million or 5.4 million?
‘Somebody must have costed this out. Here’s an amount of money that it will cost us to cover x million people.
‘I mean we’ve already seen Diane Abbott and the others train wreck over numbers. All we’re trying to do is get how many people have been factored in – is it two million or five million?’
Mr Cable would only say it was a ‘fluid number’, causing Mr Morgan to accuse him of not having a clue.
Mr Cable replied: ‘Well, we have got a clue, and we have done the costings.’