Telegraph secretly records Vince Cable threatening to "bring the Government down" if he is "pushed too far"
The Telegraph begins this morning a series which will "expose further concerns among Lib Dem ministers about Coalition policy and senior Conservative figures." It says that "following divisions within the Lib Dems over the raising of tuition fees, this newspaper has begun an investigation into the party’s true feelings towards the Coalition and it discloses widespread unease." The first part of that series is an undercover recording of Vince Cable. The Business Secretary thought he was meeting constituents but they were actually Telegraph journalists.
So, what do we learn from the Telegraph's tapes:
- His resignation threat: Being a part of the Coalition was "like fighting a war," he said. "They know I have nuclear weapons, but I don’t have any conventional weapons. If they push me too far then I can walk out of the Government and bring the Government down and they know that.”
- Immigration: He claims to have "been involved in a big battle over immigration caps and I have won that argument.” He claims that Oliver Letwin was on his side in that debate with the Home Office. ConHome has also previously reported that David Willetts has been on his side too.
- Banking bonuses: "Our Conservative friends" are opposing "a very tough approach" to the banks.
- The breakneck policy formation process: “We are trying to do too many things, actually. Some of them are Lib Dem inspired, but a lot of it is Tory inspired. The problem is not that they are Tory inspired, but that they haven’t thought them through. We should be putting a brake on them.”
- On the child benefit announcement: It was "cack-handed".
- Winter Fuel Allowance: "They haven't yet done the winter fuel payments, but that's coming, I think."
Mr Cable has now apologised for the remarks:
"Naturally I am embarrassed by these comments and I regret them. I have no intention of leaving the government. I am proud of what it is achieving and will continue to play my full part in delivering the priorities I and my party believe in, which are enshrined in the coalition agreement."
Shadow Business Secretary John Denham was quick to seize on the remarks:
"This infighting explains why the Tory-led government has three times abandoned plans to publish a plan for growth. The government is paralysed while millions wonder if their job will go next."
Verdict: "It would be an exaggeration to say these revelations rock the Coalition but they do confirm that there are real differences between the two governing parties. What we see in these tapes are the sort of thing Mr Cable says "off the record" to journalists all the time. He is known as an indiscreet and attention-seeking minister. He speaks casually about the internal discussions between ministers. None of Cable's views in these tapes are surprising. Their power is that they haven't been passed through the normal channels of anonymous sources or background briefing. Politicians will be horrified at the way The Telegraph has privately recorded a Cabinet minister and they will worry if others are to be exposed by these secret surveillance merthods in the next few days. MPs have disliked the newspaper since last year's expenses gate revelations. This use of private recording devices will produce a new level of distrust between Downing Street, in particular, and Telegraph newspapers."
David Cameron and Nick Clegg give a joint press conference later today. Journalists won't waste their opportunity to question them on the "CableLeaks".