There we have it. After all the frenzy in Westminster this afternoon, Vince Cable is
simply staying put as Business Secretary. But he does
not stand unchastised. All his responsibilities for media competition – and that includes telecoms and digital, as well as television and print – will be transferred over to Jeremy
Hunt. Which means that Cable’s war against Rupert Murdoch has ended before Christmas. At least he still has his nuclear
option, I suppose.
Many will say that Cable got off lightly – and they’d be right. Putting aside the Business Secretary’s suitability to arbitrate over the Murdoch case, his judgement has been stripped and
revealed as faulty today. Yes, he fell prey to journalists pretending to be something they weren’t. But to talk quite so candidly to people whom – whoever they were – he had only just
met? It is a set-up that would have forced other ministers onto the backbenches.
That Cable remains, even in a diminished role, is probably due to the internal balances of the coalition. Had he been dispatched, the Lib Dem left would have lost one of their own from government.
A more right-wing figure would most likely have taken his place. That could have been a toxic situation for Nick Clegg.
But, even so, the poison has not yet been sucked from this story. Not only will Labour make great play of it as Christmas approaches, but questions will continue to hang over Cable, his attitude
and his suitability for office. Will he, for instance, be satisfied with his diminished role? Or would David Laws be a happier alternative? What does this mean for the coalition’s policy contra the
banks? And so on, and so on.
All we really know, for now, is that this has been a deeply embarrassing day for the coalition – and doubly so for Cable.