Just in time for the conference season, that barometer of Lib Dem opinion, Vince Cable, is on the warpath again.
As was the case during David Cameron’s trip to India, the Business Secretary has the coalition’s immigration cap in his sights. But this time there’s not even a token attempt to maintain collective responsibility.
In remarks at the Königswinter 60th-anniversary conference, Cable said the immigration cap was “doing great damage” and admitted that he was “at the limit of collective responsibility”. Dismissing any possibility that he “misspoke”, Cable has since told the Financial Times that “a lot of damage is being done to British industry”, adding, in case there was any doubt, that he has a “file full of examples”.
Given that the Lib Dems went into the election promising an amnesty for illegal immigrants and ended up supporting the Tories’ unworkable cap, it is hardly surprising that Cable feels the need to reassert his liberal credentials. But you do wonder how long he can remain in his post if he’s going to dissent so openly.
During the Blair years, any minister who spoke out — one thinks of Peter Hain on income tax — was ruthlessly put down. But does the novelty of the coalition mean only a moderated version of collective responsibility applies? We’re about to find out.