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“He’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy”

December 22nd, 2010 Posted in Liberal Democrats, UK Politics by

At this festive time, when the true spirit of commercialism is often lost in wave of sentimentality around the best excuse ever given for getting knocked up and the brutalism of Judean state maternity services, it is good to be reminded of what it means to be Business Secretary.

Were Vince Cable a Conservative Minister in a Conservative administration, he would have been sacked for prejudicing an ongoing inquiry. That he has instead been put on the naughty step and banned from watching TV, makes him very lucky.

It remains the case that the Coalition is still better off with Vince in the tent, but for the Liberal Democrat Party the erosion of the reputation of leading figures is serious.

Nick Clegg has gone from the darling of the debates to the demon of demonstrations in a matter of months. The Sage of Twickenham looks markedly more like the Old Man of Lochnagar, laid low by pixies and a conflagration of his own making. And these two were the main faces of the 2010 election campaign.

The Liberal Democrat commentariat predictably are seeking to blame the Telegraph and right-wing conspiracy for the latest outings. But the underlying issue surely is political naivety.

Ministerial dissent is a story. Journalists write stories. There is nothing unfair about this sting.

Only Rupert Murdoch has much cause for complaint with both Cable and the Telegraph. One for prejudice, the other for appearing to try and cover up that prejudice.

Cable meanwhile is compromised and diminished. Which is not a good thing for the man responsible for creating a regulatory environment conducive to the private-sector growth needed to tackle the deficit, whilst walking the tight-rope of banking and industrial politics.

We need the old Vince back; more cautious and humbled; more a decision maker than a commentator; more media savvy than savant; but his reputation and future are in his own hands. The Liberal Democrats would like him to stop taking both for granted.

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