Its accepted that Vince Cable made a mistake in commenting publicly on the bid by News International to buy the 61% of BSkyB that it does not already own. David Cameron and Nick Clegg quickly disassociated themselves from the comments, and Dr Cable has been relieved of any responsibility for the decision which must be taken on this sensitive 'competition' matter. This has not been a good for Dr Cable of course, and I'm sure he is very disappointed as well as embarrassed. But it would have been a real loss of talent to the Coalition Government if Dr Cable had resigned from the Cabinet. And as far as I'm concerned that's it. The rest is 'hype and froth'.
When I read the original story in the Telegraph, I was completely relaxed about it - though surprised that a key Cabinet minister had spoken so freely to 'constituents' that he did not know. Even I, of lowly status, would be careful about that. But the coverage of this was still 'hype and froth'. Next reaction was irritation, when I realised that the Daily Telegraph, my newspaper of choice, had dressed journalists up as 'constituents' in a 'sting' operation, intended to draw unwise comment - but was not too bothered, because that's the sort of newspaper that the Telegraph has become. And I like this sort of 'gossip' as much as the next man. It was only later that I knew of the News International comments (courtesy of the BBC) which could not be ignored. Action, which I reckon is right and proportionate, was taken immediately. Today's Telegraph stuff about other Lib Dem ministers is nothing but 'hype and froth'. There has never been a Government in history where there were not significant disagreements between Cabinet members. Just read Andrew Rawnsley's excellent book on New Labour to understand the sheer enmity that festered at the heart of one of the most electorally successful UK Governments in history.
And I'm not too bothered by the Telegraph's behaviour either. Elected politicians should accept that what they say will become public. If you don't want people to know what you say, talk to yourself using a funny voice. To suggest that this affair has caused some lasting damage to the relationship between MPs and their constituents is also daft. Perhaps a little sensible caution until after Christmas is advisable though. The Telegraph will have to come up with something better than the 'hype and froth' of today if they want to keep this story going.