Wailing is audible in No 10 after Vince Cable limped home from China, the Business Secretary having suffered severe collateral damage in his friend Matthew Oakeshott’s suicide bombing. My Downing Street snout whispered that the Conservative machine was banking on Cable replacing David Cameron’s playmate Nick Clegg as leader of the Liberal Democrats.
Cable is disliked by Cameron and hated by George Osborne, the Tory pair complaining that the Labour-leaning Vince isn’t a coalition team player. Yet both willed him to get the top job. The Cons calculated that Cable – a former member of the Labour Party, adviser to John Smith and contributor to the 1975 Red Paper on Scotland, edited by Gordon Brown – is the Lib Dem best placed to win back Yellow Peril votes from Labour. The No 10 plot to revive the Lib Dems as a Ukip of the left was another victim of Oakeshott’s secret polling.
The BBC’s political editor, Nick Robinson, has, I hear, lost his sense of humour over complaints (1,200 and counting) that Auntie’s coverage of the council and European election results was biased in favour of Nigel Farage. The leader of the Purple Shirts did appear to chalk up the Beeb as a Ukip gain and it was a curious local authority “earthquake” when the party’s share of the vote fell 6 points on the previous May to 17 per cent.
Robbo is an old pro and bridles at accusations that he isn’t objective, especially when lefties resurrect his national chairmanship of the Young Conservatives in Thatcher’s heyday. He took umbrage at a Martin Rowson cartoon in the Guardian of him calling the Ukrainian elections for Ukip despite Farage winning no votes. Rowson was disappointed that the BBC man’s email wasn’t a request to buy the original.
Michael Gove is citing a prior engagement to avoid revisiting the scene of his unruly “Red Mike” union militancy. The Tory Education Secretary is unlikely, I was informed, to attend the 25th-anniversary strike reunion of journalists on Aberdeen’s Press and Journal in October. During the dispute, Red Mike was, as this column has disclosed, bundled into the back of a police van after throwing a traffic cone from a viaduct on to Union Street, the Granite City’s main thoroughfare. Oh, the irony that, in his current incarnation, he lectures teachers on how to behave in classrooms.
A visitor to the Victoria Street lair of the business minister Michael Fallon was surprised to see a poster of Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady. Fallon is a Thatcherite and the film charted Maggie’s struggle with dementia and the powerlessness of physical frailty. My snout wondered if Fallon had actually seen the film.
Congratulations to Joe Dromey, son of Jack and Harriet Harman. Elected a Labour councillor in Lewisham, Dromey Jr went straight into the cabinet. Which is more than his MP dad did.
Kevin Maguire is the associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror