York-born Vince Cable has fast become one of Britain’s most respected MPs. GAVIN AITCHISON charts his journey from the school stage and Bootham Crescent terraces to the forefront of British politics.

VINCE Cable was only 11 when he joined thousands of fellow football fans at York City’s biggest ever game – the FA Cup semi-final of 1955.

He was, he says, a die-hard back then, regularly watching from the Shipton Street terraces at Bootham Crescent.

The City team that year – dubbed the Happy Wanderers – narrowly missed out on Wembley, only going down in the semi-final to Newcastle United after a replay, but Cable says he has good memories of those days.

“We used to alternate between the football and the rugby league,” he says. “That was when York RL were a very good side as well, with Vic Yorke – an enormous guy who used to break all the goal-kicking records.”

Dr Cable, now 65, left York a few years later, and has become something of a happy wanderer himself. He is now revelling in his role as Liberal Democrat shadow chancellor, but only after a career that has taken in four continents and several political parties.

In a recession that has brought misery to many, he is now one of the few winners – seen as the wise sage who saw it all coming, and who has been proven right.

As we chat in the Harrogate Holiday Inn, Cable resists the temptation to say: “I told you so,” tempting though it must be – as long ago as 2003 he challenged Gordon Brown in Parliament over unsustainable house prices and consumer debt, only to be brushed off.

Four years later, he delivered a striking blow in the Commons as Brown’s premiership began to struggle, saying the Prime Minister had gone from “Stalin to Mr Bean, creating chaos out of order rather than order out of chaos.”

Cable says he was pleased with the line, but adds: “I thought up quite a lot of other funny, killer lines and nobody laughed – but that one went well.”

It was his performances in the Commons, while interim Lib Dem leader, that shot Cable to national prominence, but the seeds were sown back in York, on the stage of the old Nunthorpe Grammar School.

“One thing at Nunthorpe made the big difference,” he says.

“I was actually a very shy student, but I was given the lead role in Macbeth, and that is where I learned to stand on stage in front of an audience.”

Cable was headboy at Nunthorpe in 1961/2, having grown up in South Bank and New Lane, Holgate, and also attending Poppleton Road Primary School.

York is also where he met his first wife, Olympia Rebelo, a Kenyan who was one of the first students at the University of York. She died in 2001, and Cable wears the wedding ring from that marriage as well as that from his second, to current wife Rachel.

IF Cable is revelling in the political limelight now, his path has been far from conventional. His father was a staunch Tory, one of his best friends at school was a communist, and he was in the Labour Party until siding with the breakaway Social Democratic Party (SDP) then the Liberals, now the Liberal Democrats.

He stood in York in the 1983 and 1987 general elections, coming third both times, before finally making it to Parliament in Twickenham in 2001.

The defection to the SDP arguably robbed him of the chance to serve longer in Parliament, and possibly Government, but he stands by the decision.

“I do not regret making the switch, but I do regret the civil war in the Labour Party, if you like. I had many good friends in the party and it caused a lot of damage at the time.

“I do not think of it in terms of what might have been. Even though I did not get into Parliament, I had some very successful jobs which have helped make me more effective now.”

Cable’s lengthy CV includes being treasury finance officer to the Kenyan Government in the 1960s, chief economist for Shell in the 1990s, and doing freelance work for the UN and World Bank. He has also worked in India and South America.

In between times, he has also managed to master ballroom dancing to an international standard, a hobby he pursued with his first wife, but which again dates back to his York youth.

“I started my interest in dancing in York at something called the Court School of Dancing in the late 1950s to early 1960s, in Ousegate, I think.

“I learned some quick-step and waltz, but then it all veered off to rock and roll and different styles. I started again with my late wife. We were looking for things to do then took it seriously.”

He still dances, and admits he would like to star on Strictly Come Dancing, but suspects the BBC is keen to avoid making the show political.

So when he’s not dancing, predicting recessions, globetrotting and spearing Gordon Brown, what does life hold for the Nunthorpe old boy?

Cable lives a stone’s-throw from Twickenham rugby stadium and goes along every now and then, but he says he is more interested in watching rugby league side Harlequins than the national rugby union team.

And as for football? He says he laments York City’s fall from grace in recent years, but if they dispose of Telford this month to reach the FA Trophy final at Wembley, he says he’ll be there – 54 years on from the Happy Wanderers’ near miss.