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Cable’s boast another little boost for lucky Cameron

Posted on 21 December 2010 | 11:12am

I cannot bring myself to listen to the audioversion of the Telegraph’s stitch-up of Vince Cable, any more than I will bother to watch his ‘celebrity’ appearance on Strictly Come Dancing. The first is too cruel, the second too silly, especially in light of the changed ‘aura’ surrounding Vince as a result of the first.

Before anyone shouts that I’m just jealous because Strictly have never asked me, they have, several times, but there is a little word called ‘credibility’ eating away at the back of my mind whenever I get these invites.

And before anyone says well Anne Widdecombe did allright, I only agree up to a point. She made herself more popular and she seemed more human in agreeing to be a laughing stock, but any remaining capital of political credibility has pretty much gone. If she doesn’t mind, fine, but once the tinsel has blown away, I think she will have her moments wondering whether it was all terribly wise.

Now Vince could have got away with it as a one off, which indeed it is, and if he were still the Saint Vince of Opposition days. He could just about have got off with it even in government, even as he was helping push through all the Tory cuts, had it not been for his latest unfortunate escapade that I cannot bring myself to listen to.

Reading it is embarrassing enough. It is not simply the fact that it catches him saying one thing in public and another in what he believes to be conditions of privacy (… someone should tell him that once you reach a certain level in politics, it is wise to assume encounters with complete strangers are ‘on the record.’) What is toe-curling is the boastfulness of it all, the idea that one word of protest and a storm-out from Cabinet would bring the whole government down … Michael Heseltine tried that and he was an altogether bigger beast back then than ex-Saint Vince is now.

It is also dreadfully weakening of him. And yet again, a mishap has taken place that plays to David Cameron’s advantage. They say lucky generals make their own luck, but Cameron has a fair few lieutenants who inadvertently help him.

Stand by for both Cameron and Nick Clegg looking a little more pleased with themselves at their joint press conference today, as they celebrate their little gift labelled ‘Happy Christmas, from silly Vince.’ The only real difficulty for Cameron is the suggestion that he wants to scrap winter fuel payments. I suspect the memo to Danny Alexander saying they need a Plan B on that one has already been sent.

And as Vince waltzes round the Strictly Come Dancing floor, many watching will think it is nice that a senior politician can dance like that and doesn’t mind sharing a bit of Christmas cheer. And Cameron will think that one of his potential problems in Cabinet has just gone and undermined himself once more. Once people start imagining they have nuclear weapons riding around in their briefcase, you begin to wonder if power has gone a little to their heads.

  • Dave Simons

    Vince gave a talk to a packed Opera House at the Buxton Festival last July and he came across as very fair, sensible and level-headed in his analysis of the 2008 banking crisis and its build-up. The talk was very much based on his book, ‘The Storm’ (2009), and he described Gordon Brown and Alastair Darling as ‘smart’ for their prompt action in September 2008. His only criticism was that they had been slow to see the crisis coming, something Gordon admits in ‘Beyond the Crash’ (2010). What Vince didn’t do was go on about Labour’s mountain of debt like all the other coalition parrots. At the time I thought this man is not long for this coalition, and I now think his departure is fast approaching.

  • Neville Coles

    Yep – very, very toe curling or is it tap dancing silly…

  • Anonymous

    I wrote a while back that the coalition was making the mistake of putting so much effort into “managed harmony”. In the end that was costing the yellows bad. Thier grassroots were, in a very workmanlike kind of way, willing to do business with blues, but Cleggie and his Troika were not supposed to enjoy it sooooo much. I argued that they needed to inject some “managed tension” into the coalition, in order to boost the flagging Libs. Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness do it from time to time, its nothing new. Anyways, I would greatly appreciate others views, on how “managed” we think it was? Did Vince really speak so freely to two unknowns?

  • Livinglife1986

    The sad fact is your right both nick and Dave will be pleased when it should only be Dave, that just sums Nick up. A Tory.

  • Chris lancashire

    I really wouldn’t worry about your credibility being damaged by going on Strictly.

  • Jacquie R

    Now that the EU has, as expected, given the go-ahead for Murdoch’s News Corporation to buy out the remaining 61% of BSkyB, the next stage is Ofcom’s report and Vince Cable’s decision about whether to refer the bid to the Competition Commission. For all our sakes, we must hope that this happens and that Cable’s present situation will not impede a correct outcome.

    Interesting that the sting came, not from “dark forces” at News International, from The Telegraph, who openly oppose the News Corp bid …….

  • David Kingston

    I’m surprised that very little fuss has been made about Vince going on Strictly. Not because of the effect on his credibility, but more simply because how does a cabinet minister find the time to seriously prepare for the show? I would not be surprised if the Murdoch press now decide to make this an issue as they take their usual revenge on anyone who offends them.

  • Steve Cooke

    It is interesting to note that you feel that you have any credibility left. I’d have thought it was all blown away by the David Kelly inquiry/matter even if you “won” that particular battle against the BBC. No?

  • Robert Jackson

    Toe curling indeed!

    A giggly wiggly female “constituent”and a middle aged man’s vanity.

    He needs a chaperone (a.k.a. political minder) sitting in the corner at his constituency surgeries.

  • ronnie

    Yet again I can’t believe how supine Labour are being. This Vince Cable/Telegraph thing – they didn’t have one spokesman on the morning radio round. Surely they should be out there insisting he has to resign? If he’s telling the truth to his constituents, he has to resign fro deceiving the Tories. If he’s telling the truth to the Tories and didn’t mean what he said, he has to resign for deceiving his constituents. Come on – we need an opposition!

  • Richard Brittain

    Looking very bad for Vince. The fact it’s a giggly, eager girl definitely makes it extremely embarrassing for him. It absolutely sounds like he is showing off, trying to impress this girl with his power. Pretty sad really. I’m not sure if his reputation can recover from this.

    As Alastair says, this Coalition is more and more boosting the Tories’ image at the expense of the Lib Dems’, and it’s the latter’s fault. The Lib Dems are really starting to look like the inexperienced junior figure, not really cut out to be in power, grasping and easily corrupted. The Tories appear to be the clean-cut, professional and morally stringent side, naturally suited to the role of power. This is the vibe I’m getting anyway.

  • Richard Brittain

    Good point. A senior Cabinet member should not be appearing on Strictly Come Dancing, period.

  • Richard Brittain

    Also, I just realised – this Holly Watts who together with Laura Roberts giggled this embarrassing information out of Vince Cable, was also responsible for the David Laws expenses story, also a Telegraph scoop. This girl is the scourge of the Liberal Democrats. Robert Winnet seems to have been involved in both too.

  • Bar Bar of Oz

    Not in Cameron’s comfort zone to create a cult of personality around himself. He doesn’t have the charisma, anyway. And after the “charisma” of deliciously insane GB one would expect that the poms quite like having a PM who boringly gets on with the job.

  • Gilliebc

    It’s difficult to believe someone in his (VC) position can be so bloody stupid.
    You are right AC when you say that power has gone to the heads of the ludicrous LibDems. The sooner they realize they are completely irrelevant to this country’s future the better. That Cable twit really believes he is of such importance, he could actually bring down the Co. government! If Nick Clegg has any sense he would defect to the Tories asap and let the Libdems vanish without a trace. It’s more than about time Labour pulled themselves too. If this ConDem government falls apart, Labour are not in a strong position at the moment to offer a credible alternative to a Conservative government.

  • Anonymous

    You’re right of course and it’s another example of the way that bad things seem to happen to Liberal Democrat Cabinet Ministers if they are not called Nick Clegg. But Labour is missing a trick here.
    A big mistake this government is making is the huge gamble on changing the NHS. It’s not merely a potentially disastrous experiment. It’s also an area where it is clearly the Tories who are responsible and it is the Tories we should be attacking. Yet I have heard almost nothing from Labour on this issue. When I wanted to say the Shadow Cabinet member was making a mess of it, I had to look on the internet to find out who he was. When I got the name I still didn’t know who he was. Labour should have a bigger beast on this case.

  • “All power tends to make a fellow act the fool. Only a relatively small amount of power is required to turn him into a complete buffoon.” Lord Acton of Vale.

  • Quinney

    Was this the same buffoon who was saying everything in the ConDem garden was rosy on the Andrew Marr show on Sunday? Is this the same fool who said that the tuition fees proposal was a good one but then said he still might vote against it?
    It seem the only LibDem MP with a “nuclear option” is Mick Hancock (he asks enough questions about things nuclear!) but both Hancock and Cable can’t resist telling all to young bimbos!

  • Matthew

    I completely disagree. I don’t watch, or even like, Strictly, but if VC wants to do it why not? If it impacts his credibility then that’s for him to manage. The argument that he shouldn’t be spending time doing it is specious in my view. Being a govt minister doesn’t mean you have to be at work 24×7. Doing stuff outside work is important for everyone, regardless of what it is. If you oppose that idea then you would have opposed Alistair’s entry to the Marathon to raise money for leukaemia research when he was still working for TB.