Will Vince Cable be the first to leave Cameron’s cabinet?

The Business Secretary’s comments in the Sunday Telegraph seem to confirm reports that he isn’t a ha

Who will be the first Lib Dem member of cabinet to quit this coalition during the course of this "fixed-term" parliament? I know we've already had one Lib Dem departure: the former chief secretary to the Treasury David Laws, of course, resigned after just 17 days on the job. But he didn't really have a choice.

I'm talking about the possibility of a so-called principled resignation by a minister -- if you'll allow me to include the world "principle" in the same sentence as "minister". There are five Lib Dem members of the cabinet -- Nick Clegg (Deputy Prime Minister), Vince Cable (Business Secretary), Danny Alexander (Chief Secretary to the Treasury), Chris Huhne (Energy Secretary) and Michael Moore (Scottish Secretary).

"Calamity" Clegg ain't going anywhere any time soon. As the leader of the Lib Dems, he can't really resign from the cabinet without bringing down the whole coalition government. And so he's hitched his own political future, as well as his party's, to this Lib-Con coalition deal and he now has nowhere else to go. (I'm told John Denham spoke for the entire shadow cabinet when he told the Fabian Review last month that Labour would demand the head of Nick Clegg before doing any deal with the Liberal Democrats in the future.)

Danny Alexander, meanwhile, has become the face of the cuts. I can't see him going either. And Michael Moore? Would anyone notice if he left the cabinet? I'm not sure anyone really noticed when he joined it, after his Lib Dem precessor at the Scottish Office, Alexander, went off to replace Laws at George Osborne's side in HM Treasury.

Then there are Huhne and Cable, both former Labour men who are often described as being on the left of their party. A few months ago, I'd have put my money on Huhne, but the way in which he survived the revelations of his affair, and the subsequent break-up of his marriage, including the repeated attacks from the Daily Mail, suggests he is a man who has no plans to quit front-bench politics. It has become clear, listening to Ed Balls and Ed Miliband describe how keen Huhne was during the coalition negotiations with Labour to abandon the Lib Dems' manifesto pledge to delay spending cuts, that he has far fewer ideological objections to Osbornian austerity than some of us might have assumed in the not-too-distant past.

So that leaves St Vince of Cable, who keeps being humiliated by his Tory coalition partners. First, Cameron and Osborne kowtowed to Tory backbench concerns by limiting the rise in capital gains tax to 28 per cent, after the Business Secretary had accused the likes of David Davis and John Redwood of "reinventing the wheel" on CGT. Then, after Cable announced his interest in a graduate tax, a "senior Conservative source" promptly briefed the BBC that the government would reject such a proposal.

No wonder Vince looks so grumpy and down, or, as I wrote in a column a few weeks ago:

Vince Cable, the Business Secretary (who, in the words of one senior Labour politician who knows him well, is "semi-detached" from the government), is doing his best impression of Walter Matthau in Grumpy Old Men. He is said to mope around the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), while some Lib Dems believe he is setting himself up as a restraint inside the cabinet on his old enemy, George Osborne.

In a "candid" interview in today's Sunday Telegraph with Patrick Hennessy, Cable seems to confirm my view:

"People sometimes ask me, 'Are you having fun?' " he says. "No! It's hard work and it's tough, but it's important."

Hennessy writes:

This mantra of fairness is central to his beliefs. He is often cited as the Lib Dem most likely to quit the cabinet on a policy issue, so what are his "red line" issues that might provoke such an exit?

"I worked for some years to get us committed in our party to what we call fair taxes, lifting low-paid people out of tax, we got that in the coalition agreement and it was in the first Budget. So I'm content that that's being carried forward."

Later on Mr Cable returns to the subject of "fair taxes", when asked what he would consider a success after five years as Business Secretary. He even goes much further than Labour ministers ever dared by using the "R" word (redistribution) and spelling out exactly what he means -- "a tax system that means people at the bottom end of the scale pay less and at the top end of the scale pay more".

"Fair taxes" are not what we've got so far from this coalition government, with its "regressive" (© Institute for Fiscal Studies) emergency Budget in June. It's not fair to raise VAT, which hits the poorest hardest, while cutting corporation tax on the banks and leaving bankers' bonuses untaxed. And I have no doubt that the coalition's tax-and-spend changes are only going to get more unfair. How long will Vince Cable be able to stay in such a government while sticking to his self-professed social-democratic principles? Not that long, is my guess.

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

Reuters/New Statesman composite.
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When it comes to social media, we all have a responsibility to avoid sharing upsetting images

If Twitter is the new journalism, we are all editors – and responsible for treating our fellow humans with dignity.

“I wish I hadn’t seen that”, my colleague says from across the desk. It’s been an hour since the first reports came in of a shooting outside Parliament, and the news agency Reuters has started posting photographs of injured people, knocked down by the terrorist as he drove across Westminster Bridge.

In one, a brunette woman leans over a victim whose blood is beginning to stain the wet pavement. Lying on her back, she is framed by scattered postcards sold for tourists which have been knocked to the floor. She is clutching the arm of the woman helping her, but her eyes are staring dead into the photographer’s lens.

Another photograph – the one that my colleague is referring to – disturbs me even more: a man who has fallen (or been pushed?) off the bridge onto a stairwell. He is face down in a pool of blood, his left leg at an unnatural angle. It is impossible to tell if he is alive or not.

Briefly, before I scroll past, I wonder if someone, somewhere is seeing the same picture and experiencing a shock of recognition as they recognise their friend’s clothes.

And then there is one picture which I now cannot find on Twitter, but which, lying in bed last night, I could not stop thinking of: a woman’s legs extended from under the wheel of a bus, her skirt hiked up to show her underwear, her shoes missing.

We are a desk of journalists covering an attack on the Houses of Parliament, so I keep scrolling. It is only later, in an article by the Telegraph, that I learn a junior doctor has declared the woman dead.

Of course, the shock of seeing images like these is nothing compared to what war reporters, doctors or police go through on a regular basis. But a 2015 study at the University of Toronto found that extended exposure to violent or disturbing material can have a severe effect on journalists’ mental health.

The impact can be particularly confusing when one does not anticipate seeing violence.On social media, we increasingly encounter images this way: without warning and without a chance to steel ourselves. This is particularly a problem when it comes to members of the public, whose jobs don’t require them to look at shocking material but who can nevertheless be exposed to it just by virtue of using a social media network.

It is for this reason that, shortly after Reuters published their photographs of the Westminster victims, prominent journalists began posting asking their colleagues not to retweet them. Some protested the fact that Reuters had published them at all.

In today’s media landscape, news moves fast and social media faster. Where a picture editor would have previously had until their print deadline to decide which images to run, now photographers are able to send their work back to the office almost instantaneously, and editors must make a snap decision about what to release.

Deciding what images to use can be a difficult call – especially under pressure. On the one hand, there is the urge to not turn away, to bear witness to the full magnitude of what has happened, even if it is shocking and upsetting. On the other, there is the need to treat fellow human beings with dignity, and particularly to avoid, where possible, showing images of victims whose families have not yet been informed.

Social media makes this process even more difficult. Once released online, photographs of the Westminster attack were quickly saved and re-posted by private individuals, stripped of context or warning. One can choose not to follow the Reuters Pictures account, but one cannot necessarily avoid seeing an image once it is being retweeted, reposted and recycled by private accounts.

As the line between traditional news and social media blurs and we increasingly become participants in the news, as well as consumers of it, our sense of responsibility also shifts. On Twitter, we are our own editors, each charged with making sure we extend dignity to our fellow humans, even – especially – when the news is dramatic and fast-moving.

I was glad, this morning, to encounter fewer and fewer photographs – to not see the girl lying under the bus again. But at 3am last night, I thought about her, and about her family; about them knowing that journalists on desks across Britain had seen up their loved one’s skirt during the last moments of her life. It was, without putting too fine a point on it, no way to encounter a fellow human being.

Over the next few days, we will find out more about who the victims were. The media will release images of them in happier times, tell us about their jobs and careers and children – as is already happening with Keith Palmer, the policeman who we now know died on the Parliamentary Estate.

It is those images which I hope will be shared: not just as a way to resist fear, but as a way of acknowledging them as more than victims – of forging a different connection, based not in horror and voyeurism, but in a small moment of shared humanity.

There is no shame in being affected by graphic images, however removed one “ought” to feel. If you would like someone to talk to, Mind can provide details of local services.

The BBC also provides advice for those upset by the news.

Find out how to turn off Twitter image previews here.

Stephanie Boland is digital assistant at the New Statesman. She tweets at @stephanieboland