I have long thought that, for all his down-with-the-people appeal, Vince Cable was something of an arse, a populist gadfly. I hadn't figured that he was this much of an arse.
The initial revelations in the Daily Telegraph were embarrassing enough. First he overstates his importance by claiming he could use the "nuclear option" and walk out on the government, bringing down the coalition, should he ever feel it necessary. More damaging still were the later comments (not even mentioned by the Telegraph and, it would seem, purposefully not reported) that he was "at war" with Rupert Murdoch. Pretty damning coming from the Business Secretary, someone who will have a quasi-judicial role in determining whether or not News International's proposed takeover of BSkyB should be permitted or not. Sounds like he's already made his mind up about it. In private conversations, at least.
Or not so private, given that he was talking to reporters from the Daily Telegraph and not members of his constituency as he thought. Terrible error of judgement from such an experienced politician. He's paid the price now, being partially stripped of responsibilities but still a member of the cabinet. It's been pointed out by several observers that Cameron would have come down a lot harder if one of his own had been so careless, which perhaps lends credence after all to Cable's bold claims to be pivotal to the coalition hanging together. To strip him of all ministerial responsibility would have caused deep divisions within the Lib Dems.
I commented earlier in the year (although perhaps not on this blog because I cannot find it anywhere) that there are things in my fridge with a longer shelf-life than this coalition. So far that hasn't shown to be correct, but it's certainly being tested at the moment. If Cable's comments about the conflicts that go on behind closed doors are true (and let's face it, they probably are) then I think it will be nothing short of a miracle if it manages to last for five years.