It was when Vince Cable slouched into Number 10 wearing Twickenham’s version of John Wayne’s Stetson that you realised he was in trouble. Peter McHugh writes on the new Cablegate.
The story thus far: a couple of alleged yummy mummys had popped into his regular constituency surgery, flashed their credentials and asked the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills to come clean on his real thoughts on coalition politics.
As alarm bells rang and sirens sounded all down Whitehall, Dave moved fast.
Despite being in the game of life and politics for more than half a century, Vince took one look at the comely charms of his questioners and spilled all immediately.
It was enough for most of us to know that he was in celebrity Strictly Come Dancing on Christmas Day but we now discovered he claimed another skill.. the ability to bring down the government on his own.
Now as any red blooded man know, lying to women about your prowess whether in or on the cabinet is what really turns them on. Add to that the ability to foxtrot and they just swoon.
Sadly for Vince it was Christmas and the fairy was obviously busy elsewhere and so it came to pass that the comely ladies weren’t after his body but his opinions. Worse still, not only were they not swooning wenches but “Doh!” (as Homer Simpson might put it,) they were reporters from the Daily Telegraph, scourge of MPs, Lib Dems and anybody who doesn’t vote Tory.
And so there he was, hoisted by his own ego, strung up by his hormones, belittled by braggadocio.
How the Tories loved it, their very own Julian Assange moment. Vince had always let it be known, although not so directly to the Daily Telegraph, that he was a reluctant convert to the chauffeur-driven, vast salary, front-of-the-queue benefits of membership of the Coalition cabinet. Instead he wanted to a friend to all, promise everything and deliver nothing in the best traditions of 90 years without even the faint smell of power.
Sadly the car comes at a cost as England’s students so rudely pointed out. Back at coalition HQ there was a bit of huffing and puffing over Vince’s gaffe. Dave and Nick had been due out in public anyway to wish us all good cheer and brag about their first few months in power. Having Vince rubbish their civil partnership was hardly good timing but Dave, still delighted and bemused by the way the Lib Dems had ended up being the human shields for Tory plans, wasn’t going to complain too much. Nick, meanwhile, continued to have the look of a man suffering from irritable person syndrome.
After all, they said, all he bragged to the girls was his ability to single-handedly bring down the Government. No problem there then. But suddenly it all got really serious because we discovered that whilst in full flow to the femmes fatales Vince had claimed almost omniscience. He said he could take on Rupert Murdoch!
Getting rid of governments is one thing, getting rid of Rupert is something else entirely.
Mata Hari eat your heart out
As alarm bells rang and sirens sounded all down Whitehall Dave moved fast. To transfer responsibility for Rupert and his business to where it should have been from the start to a Tory Minister. The forever famous Jeremy Hunt will now decide when Rupert gets what he wants.
Having had such success with Vince, the Telegraph girls had, we learned, taken a trip around the country to the surgeries of those other Lib Dem stalwarts who had taken the Coalition’s shilling and found them almost equally as forthcoming to total strangers of a certain type. Mata Hari eat your heart out.
Back at coalition HQ there was a bit of huffing and puffing over Vince’s gaffe.
Back at base, Nick, from whose lips only praise for the coalition has passed, was busy refixing the rictus grin once worn so regularly by Gordon Brown and promising that this was just another sign of how well things were going.
Have the girls been to see him? Watch this space.
More to come?
And so the political year 2010 was almost wrapped up. MPs headed home richer and wiser. Lib Dems not yet in the cabinet weighed their chances, Dave weighed their votes.
Over at the official opposition the story had got so serious by teatime that the early rent-a-response by Douglas Alexander was replaced with an “off with his head” demand from Ed Miliband who must be hoping and praying The Telegraph hasn’t been interviewing his loyal lieutenants.
All that remains is the prospect of watching Vince dancing the light fantastic on Christmas Day and remembering that, like his career, this was one that was recorded earlier.
Peter McHugh is the former director of programmes at GMTV and was this year awarded the Royal Television Society Lifetime Achievement Award.