Vince Cable at the Liberal Democrats' spring conference in Liverpool earlier this year. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Vince Cable loses seat on a terrible night for the Lib Dems

Business Secretary is the biggest of the Lib Dem beasts to fall.

It just gets worse for the Lib Dems. In the biggest shock result of the night, Vince Cable has lost his Twickenham seat to the Conservatives. The Business Secretary was expected to survive on the basis of his personal popularity. But such is the scale of the swing against his party that the much-touted "incumbency advantage" counted for little. The Tories, for whom Cable became a hate figure in recent years, will relish this victory.

Cable is the biggest of the Lib Dem beasts to fall: Simon Hughes, Lynne Featherstone and Ed Davey have also been decapitated. The party's decision to enter coalition with the Tories has proved electorally ruinous. As Angela Merkel once remarked to David Cameron of coalition governments: "The little party always gets smashed!" Having won 57 seats in 2010, the Lib Dems will be lucky to hold more than 10 tonight. For the Tories, conversely, the decision to enter coalition in 2010 now looks like an electoral masterstroke. It is taking scores of seats from the Lib Dems but Labour is still struggling to make gains despite the collapse of its centre-left rival. While he has retained his own Sheffield Hallam seat, it is doubtful whether Nick Clegg can remain leader after a humiliation on this scale. Should he resign, it is Tim Farron, the activists' darling, who represents the safe seat of Westmorland and Lonsdale who will take over.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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The Home Office made Theresa May. But it could still destroy her

Even politicians who leave the Home Office a success may find themselves dogged by it. 

Good morning. When Theresa May left the Home Office for the last time, she told civil servants that there would always be a little bit of the Home Office inside her.

She meant in terms of its enduring effect on her, but today is a reminder of its enduring ability to do damage on her reputation in the present day.

The case of Jamal al-Harith, released from Guantanamo Bay under David Blunkett but handed a £1m compensation payout under Theresa May, who last week died in a suicide bomb attack on Iraqi forces in Mosul, where he was fighting on behalf of Isis. 

For all Blunkett left in the wake of a scandal, his handling of the department was seen to be effective and his reputation was enhanced, rather than diminished, by his tenure. May's reputation as a "safe pair of hands" in the country, as "one of us" on immigration as far as the Conservative right is concerned and her credibility as not just another headbanger on stop and search all come from her long tenure at the Home Office. 

The event was the cue for the Mail to engage in its preferred sport of Blair-bashing. It’s all his fault for the payout – which in addition to buying al-Harith a house may also have fattened the pockets of IS – and the release. Not so fast, replied Blair in a punchy statement: didn’t you campaign for him to be released, and wasn’t the payout approved by your old pal Theresa May? (I paraphrase slightly.)

That resulted in a difficult Q&A for Downing Street’s spokesman yesterday, which HuffPo’s Paul Waugh has posted in full here. As it was May’s old department which has the job of keeping tabs on domestic terror threats the row rebounds onto her. 

Blair is right to say that every government has to “balance proper concern for civil liberties with desire to protect our security”. And it would be an act of spectacular revisionism to declare that Blair’s government was overly concerned with civil liberty rather than internal security.

Whether al-Harith should never have been freed or, as his family believe, was picked up by mistake before being radicalised in prison is an open question. Certainly the journey from wrongly-incarcerated fellow traveller to hardened terrorist is one that we’ve seen before in Northern Ireland and may have occurred here.

Regardless, the presumption of innocence is an important one but it means that occasionally, that means that someone goes on to commit crimes again. (The case of Ian Stewart, convicted of murdering the author Helen Bailey yesterday, and who may have murdered his first wife Diane Stewart as well, is another example of this.)

Nonetheless, May won’t have got that right every time. Her tenure at the Home Office, so crucial to her reputation as a “safe pair of hands”, may yet be weaponised by a clever rival, whether from inside or outside the Conservative Party. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.