David Cameron faced anger from Tory MPs last night for failing to sack Business Secretary Vince Cable and “propping up” the Liberal Democrats in the coalition Government.
The Prime Minister faced questions about why Mr Cable, the second most senior Lib Dem minister, had survived despite his hugely embarrassing comments to undercover reporters.
Mr Cable was on Tuesday humiliatingly stripped of his responsibilities for the media after he claimed to have “declared war” on Rupert Murdoch's media empire.
Senior Tory MP Christopher Chope, the secretary of the influential backbench 1922 Committee, said Mr Cable should have been sacked for his comments. “When we get into the new year the Prime Minister will have to assess whether propping up the Liberal Democrats is in the long-term best interests of the Conservative Party and the country,” he told |the BBC.
He accused Lib Dem ministers of “having it both ways”.
“They want to be able to |support the Government for |the sake of keeping the Liberal |Democrats in Government and keeping their own ministerial cars, but then they want to be able to say to their supporters outside ‘Don't worry, I wasn't in
support of that at all, I am rather against it’.”
John Whittingdale, another senior Conservative backbencher, said Mr Cable would “almost certainly” have been sacked if he was a Tory minister.
“I'm not happy, but nevertheless I accept that in a coalition we have to do things to keep our partners in the coalition content,” he said. “Equally, it's quite plain that Vince Cable is the second most important Liberal member of the coalition. We have already lost one leading Liberal minister and the feeling was we cannot afford to lose another.”
Labour leader Ed Miliband said their comments had exposed the “sham” of coalition politics.
He said the Conservative-led Government was being “propped up by Liberal Democrat passengers — passengers not in the front seat, not even in the back seat of the car, but passengers who have got themselves locked in the boot”.
The Prime Minister insisted Mr Miliband was “wrong”.
“Of course coalitions have their difficulties and their tensions,” |he said.
“I would say look at the bigger picture — this Government is |delivering in terms of the real problems the country faces.”
Mr Cameron described the |Business Secretary's comments as “unacceptable”, but insisted he had taken the “right action” |in response.