While Anna Soubry’s short joke about Nigel Farage on Marr has been causing the biggest row, it was actually Vince Cable’s interview earlier in the programme that was clearly intended to annoy. The Business Secretary has been quite quiet of late, particularly after a rather humiliating conference season. But today he went much, much further than his boss Nick Clegg in differentiating the Lib Dems from the Tories.

While he repeatedly referred to his leader’s work in blocking the 75,000 proposed by Theresa May in a leaked Home Office document, Cable repeated his fears about the Help to Buy scheme and, significantly, warned that cuts to public services were endangering ‘the social fabric’. Most in the Coalition are breathing a sigh of relief that 2013 turned out to be far less politically bruising a year than they had feared (see Fraser’s column and his Coffee House post for more details) . But Cable took a rather more Grinch-like stance, saying:

‘We’ve got to have a sensible balance between pressure on public spending, which is becoming very severe, actually some very good services are now being seriously affected. I am concerned about the social fabric and there are two answers – one is that we’ve got to get recovery going properly and sustainably and there’s been some good news over the last six months, you know growth is happening, unemployment is falling, so those things have got to be built upon.’

In my Telegraph column on Friday I wrote that some Lib Dems at the top of the party expect that Cable and his mischief-making ally Lord Oakeshott will have a ‘last roar’, probably around the European elections. But it looks as though the Business Secretary fancies having a few little roars, pushing the boundaries of collective responsibility as far as they can possibly go.

Tags: UK politics, Vince Cable