Lib Dem deputy leader Vince Cable believes the true cost of the recession is being borne in cities like Bristol.
He said today that London has an “artificial boom mentality”, created by a rise in the stock market and high prices for luxury homes.
But he believes shopkeepers, traders and other small business in provincial cities better understand the true cost of the downturn.
Among those he met was businesswoman Kathy Thorne, who runs the Time For Fun party shop on Filton Rd, Horfield.
Kathy has just been forced to give up her premises as a result of what she believes are excessive demands for rent by her landlord.
Her circumstances may be unsual, but her experience of going bust is sadly typical of many shops around the city.
Vince told Jones The News: “There is an artificial boom mentality in London, created by the stock exchange and luxury property prices, but it is very artificial.
But out in the country it is very different, people are very sober. There is a problem, though some people think there isn’t.”
He also hit out at the Labour government’s policies towards the banks.
He said: “Having taken the banks over, he has just let the banks go back to business as usual. Gordon Brown is intimidated by the bankers.
“For ten years, Brown has curtsied to the city of London and isn’t able or willing to exert any kind of control, and that is a big weakness.”
But he refused to be drawn on the possibility of serving as chancellor in a hung parliament. Many commentators believe a hung parliament is becoming more likely, as the Tories lead over Labour shrinks.
One frequently-discussed scenario is that Cable would become Chancellor if the Liberals formed a coalition either with Labour or the Conservatives.
But he swept the idea away, saying: “It’s not a personal thing. I am part of a team and that team is doing very well. Bristol is a good example of the way the Liberal Democrats have come from a long way behind to become the dominant political force in the city.
“There is no question of me going off to do anything on my own. what we are concerned about is not jobs for me or anyone else. We are more concerned with getting our policies across.
“It is my ambition to be chancellor in a Lib Dem administration, that is what we are aiming for.”
Audio: Martin Jones interviews Vince Cable