Politics.co.uk Blog

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Cable's gaffe is no surprise

Vince Cable is not especially adept at keeping his feelings to himself. Which is somewhat unfortunate, given the profession he finds himself in.

Being part of the government has traditionally required extensive lip-zipping. The constitutional convention of collective responsibility, which requires all ministers to resign if they cannot back the government's position on everything, has already been stretched by the coalition. Cable's suggestion shortly before the tuition fees vote that he might abstain is a case in point.

Now the business secretary has been caught making improper remarks about his "war" with Rupert Murdoch. Given that he was supposed to be making a quasi-judicial decision on the issue, it's right that he steps back. Despite the obvious opprobrium this has attracted, I can't help but feel that Cable's longer-term position as the man holding up the coalition has been strengthened..

The problem is that he's not great at keeping himself to himself. I spoke with him last summer about his thoughts on the coalition. He was far more candid than he needed to be: in fact Cable was about as frank as he was on the Telegraph tapes which have now got him into so much trouble. There is a balance to be struck in being privately open with journalists – we can't do our jobs if we don't know what they're really thinking - but Cable has spent his months in office being surprisingly unguarded. Perhaps now he will learn his lesson.

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