Which Lib Dem can be rudest about the Tories? Chris Huhne, you must admit, gave it a decent shot yesterday, describing his parties’ “extraordinary anger” with their coalition stablemates. Even Nick Clegg had a go, with a little swipe at Thatcherism. But I reckon Vince Cable’s remarks this morning will take some beating. The Tories – on his utterly unscheming, non-partisan account – are “ruthless, calculating and very tribal”. Although he did add that, “that doesn’t mean to say we can’t work with them.” How very broadminded of him.
The trick of the next few days will be sifting out the Lib-Con separations that have Downing Street’s blessing from those that are simply vicious attacks by one coalition partner on the other. Cable’s latest intervention, I’d say, belongs in the latter camp. It is going to do much to rile up those Tories who thought that he should have lost his job when he started bragging about his nuclear option last year. And it could even rile some Lib Dems too. Cable prefaced his attack by observing that, “Some of us never had many illusions about the Conservatives.” A dig at Clegg, perhaps?
In the same interview, Cable also suggested that electoral reform may not be a dead carcass of an idea after all. It might return “quite quickly,” he said, hand-in-hand with the issue of Lords reform. Perhaps – but that’s not quite the same as holding a general election under a system other than FTPT. The fact that Cable has to deal with today is this: the nation summarily rejected a voting system that, to some extent, was just a tweaked version (aka, “miserable little compromise”) of the one we have now.