Speaking at the LibDems' UK Conference in Glasgow the former Glasgow Labour councillor criticised the internal workings of his old party, who have held power at the City Chambers for decades.
He said: "Glasgow has experienced one party, Labour, rule for decades. And I was part of the Labour political machine here in the 1970s.
"On one level it worked. Insanitary slums were razed to the ground.
"We built 30,000 new social homes for rent in a decade, 5000 in one year, a scale unimaginable today.
"There was also an unhealthy tribalism... in which union bosses had excessive influence in picking candidates and deciding policy.
"Judging by Falkirk, and other Labour fiefdoms, nothing very much has changed.
"That is one major reason why we must not concede to Labour the mantle of radical progressive politics."
He said the Tories were "hated on Clydeside" their politics were "ugly" and said the LibDems were not just a "nicer version of the Tory Party".
Later in his speech, Mr Cable said he would be cracking down on zero-hours employment contracts and was immediately criticised by business leaders
He said: "I will act against abusive practices in zero-hours contracts, like exclusivity arrangements which prevent workers seeking alternatives, even when they are given no work.
"I have secured agreement in government to launch a formal consultation on the best mechanism to tackle abuse."
However, business leaders said employers and many employees needed flexibility
Simon Walker, Director General of the Institute of Directors, said: "Properly used, these contracts can be immensely valuable.
"The Government may be right in looking at fringe areas where such contracts are abused, but in doing so they must not risk the flexibility that such contracts bring to the labour market."
John Cridland, Director General of the Confederation of British Industry said: "Flexibility in the workplace, such as zero-hours contracts, creates opportunities for those who find it hardest to break into the jobs market, including young people and parents."
Meanwhile, LibDem leader, Nick Clegg saw off an attempt by some party members pushing for a change of heart on the economy, urging the LibDems to distance themselves from Chancellor George Osborne's austerity measures.