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Lib Dems have a stinker

Brian Taylor | 15:25 UK time, Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Bit of a stinker all round for the Liberal Democrats.

Not wonderful for the Scottish Secretary Michael Moore - although the Vince Cable stuff is of an entirely different order.

Let us deal with Mr Moore first. He is making no overt complaints about the method by which he was secretly taped - only too well aware that such complaints would sound limp.

Instead, his defence is that it is scarcely a secret that, as a Liberal Democrat, he does not pursue the precise path mapped out by the Conservatives.

So, on child benefit, he says it is the anomalies in the change - and not the change itself - which concern him.

On tuition fees, he says it is well known that this has been painful for Liberal Democrats.

To which one might well respond that it will be a sight more painful for those students in England who end up paying increased charges - when they believed they had a pledge from the LibDems to thwart those increases if they could: not to assist their passage.

Face value

Again, though, Mr Moore told the bogus "constituents" what he insists he is telling everyone: that the gains of stable government, with LibDem influence, outweigh the political agony of a particular U-turn.

Even if one accepts that argument at face value - and many will not - it would appear that Mr Moore still faces a fundamental question.

One which I posed to him openly, on camera.

If, as he tells his "constituents", he entered politics partly because he "hated" what the Tories were doing to Scotland, why on earth is he in coalition with them?

His answer was that times and circumstances have changed: that, again, it is advantageous to the UK at this time of economic uncertainty to have a government with a stable majority and an agreed programme; that there have been gains for the LibDems as well as the Tories in the coalition agreement.

To turn now to Mr Cable. What did he think he was doing? Bad enough that he is heard apparently boasting that he could bring down the government by resigning (a scenario which he later discounted.)

He sounded for all the world like a grumpy junior clerk in a dead-end job declaring: I could walk away, you know - just see how they'd get on then.

Sentence pronounced

Far worse that he is recorded declaring war on Rupert Murdoch - when he was, at the time of recording, in the process of considering and judging the media tycoon's application to take over the whole of BSkyB.

Let us be clear what does - and does not - matter about this.

It does not matter, at this stage, whether Mr Cable was right or wrong to oppose Mr Murdoch.

It is not a question of the verdict - but that the sentence was pronounced, Alice in Wonderland style, before the verdict or even the court hearing.

It is a question of process. Which truly matters in government. And the law.

As one LibDem MSP said to me, even the most junior councillor would know not to comment on a planning application - if they were members of the planning committee.

Let alone the sole final arbiter. Even if approached by "constituents".


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