23 Dec 2010

What do Lib Dem ministers really think of Cameron?

Secret recordings by undercover newspaper reporters reveal a Liberal Democrat minister saying the Chancellor “get’s up one’s nose” – Channel 4 News looks at the cracks in the Coalition.

The ministers were taped by undercover Daily Telegraph journalists, who caught them being rather more frank about their Coalition colleagues than usual.

Care Minister Paul Burstow told the journalists, who were posing as Liberal Democrat voters: “I do not want you to trust David Cameron.”

Local Government Minister Andrew Stunell said he did not know where Mr Cameron stood on the “sincerity monitor”, and David Heath, deputy leader of the Commons, suggested the multi-millionaire Chancellor George Osborne was out of touch with the world.

George Osborne has a capacity to get up one’s nose, doesn’t he? David Heath, Liberal Democrat MP.

George Osborne has a capacity to get up one’s nose, doesn’t he?” he said. “I mean, what I think is, some of them just have no experience of how ordinary people live, and that’s what worries me. But maybe again, you know, that’s part of our job, to remind them.”

Transport minister Norman Baker also admitted: “I do not like George Osborne very much.”

The revelations could put further strain on the Coalition, after several days of revelations from secret recordings of what ministers thought were private conversations.

Cracks in the Coalition (Getty)

Business Secretary Vince Cable was allowed to stay in his role after it emerged he told the reporters he had “declared war” on Rupert Murdoch, the owner of News Corporation, which is attempting to take full control of BSkyB.

Mr Cable had responsibility for media competition, including the bid, taken away from him, and it was passed to Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell took legal advice before sanctioning the move, but it was questioned by shadow Business Secretary John Denham, who asked whether Mr Hunt was a “fit and proper person” to take on the case.

He pointed out that the Conservative MP had written an article in which he praised Mr Murdoch and said that the News Corp bid did not represent a “substantial change”. It also emerged Mr Hunt had a meeting with James Murdoch, the chairman of BSkyB and Chief Executive of News Corp in Europe and Asia on 28 June. That was shortly after News Corp announced its BSkyB takeover offer, and was not attended or minuted by officials.

The secret recordings

Mr Stunell was recorded saying: “I don’t know where I put him (David Cameron) on the sincerity monitor.”

He added: “Is he sincere? I do not know how to answer that question.”

I don’t want you to trust David Cameron…in the sense that you believe he’s suddenly become a cuddly Liberal. Well, he hasn’t. Paul Burstow, Liberal Democrat MP.

Mr Burstow said: “I don’t want you to trust David Cameron… in the sense that you believe he’s suddenly become a cuddly Liberal. Well, he hasn’t. He’s still a Conservative and he has values that I don’t share.”

Mr Baker said: “There are Tories who are quite good and there are Tories who are, you know, beyond the pale, and, you know, you have to just deal with the cards you’ve got.”

He said he did not like Mr Osborne very much, although Justice Secretary Ken Clarke was “all right” and there were “the ones you can do business with”.

“But what you end up doing in the Coalition… is we play them off against each other,” he added.