When a Secretary of State is in trouble, it is traditional that his governmental
colleagues rally to his side. But as Vince Cable defended overruling the Business Select Committee’s objections to Les Ebdon, there was but one Tory Cabinet minister on the front bench. This
despite Cable having rung round private offices in search of support, as Patrick Wintour reports. In total there were three Tories on the front
bench for most of the statement, Cable’s junior minister Mark Prisk, the whip Mark Francois and the Leader of the House Sir George Young in his normal seat.
The absence of Tory ministers combined with 13 hostile questions from Tory backbenchers shows just how uncomfortable the Tories are with this appointment. By contrast, the Lib Dems are delighted.
Their benches were packed and all Lib Dem Cabinet ministers bar Clegg and Alexander were on the Treasury bench for Cable.
Ebdon’s appointment threatens to undermine all that the coalition is doing to try to promote the idea of excellence in education. It is also a significant moment for the coalition as it is
the first time that the government has done something that Number 10 privately admits is actually bad for the country.