Left Watch

« Unison paints Eric Pickles as "Jabba the Cut" | Main | Has Labour really become a Eurosceptic party? »

Calamity Cable's calculated controversies

Matthew Barrett


Vince Cable has been notable throughout his time in government for causing problems. He seems unable to respect Cabinet collective responsibility. Whilst some have hailed the coalition as "the return of cabinet government", that would mean robust discussion within Cabinet, not off-message comments in public. The newspapers this morning had several new Cable gaffes, so I thought I'd compile as many Cable-isms as possible in one post:

  • Changing the government's position on the Chagos Islanders, and then walking back his comments, calling it an "administrative error"
  • Calling bankers "spivs and gamblers"
  • "If we all abstain then that is the position I am happy to go along with. There is an option that we all abstain together and we are considering that" - he considered abstaining on his own department's policy
  • “I can walk out of the government and bring the government down”, he boasted to two Telegraph journalists secretly recording a constituency surgery, when talking about his role in the BSkyB negotiations
  • Making strange jokes about bankers being run over
  • Calling David Cameron's immigration speech "very unwise"
  • Saying Mr Cameron only became party leader because of "AV" (not true)
  • Telling the BBC that the Lib Dems had "restrained" the Tories from making "offensive" policy decisions for Scotland
  • "That's why I'm glad the Tories aren't in power by themselves at Westminster. We have stopped the Tories behaving like they did under Thatcher" - remarks dropped from a speech made in Edinburgh last night
  • Admitting he thought about leaving office over his previous BSkyB gaffe
  • “If I find myself outside the Government, I can assure you there are all kinds of things I can do with my life. I can have much fun going around the country speaking, writing books and probably doubling my income in the process" - implying he might prefer to be sacked from Cabinet rather than stay in it.
Andrew Porter, the Telegraph's Political Editor, calls the last few of the above points "a series of clearly thought-out attacks on Mr Cameron", and also says:

He appears reckless to the point of almost willing Mr Cameron to make his day and fire him. Then, a still-principled Mr Cable (at least in his own mind) could return to the back benches and, while earning pots of money, he would act as a rallying point for disgruntled Lib Dems both at Westminster and in the country.

There is no evidence to suggest a co-ordinated campaign between the two, but Chris Huhne is also making some statements that he would not make without serious consideration. He put in a robust performance on Newsnight last night and has been the most openly critical of Conservative Cabinet colleagues during the referendum campaign. It's also worth remembering his very tight contest with Nick Clegg for the Lib Dem leadership in 2007 (in which he accused Clegg of "parrotting Cameron"), and it later emerged that had it not been for postal votes arriving late due to the Christmas post, Huhne would have won the leadership.