Belfast Telegraph

A little female flattery produced a Cable meltdown

By Janet Street-Porter

This season's panto star isn't Pamela Anderson, Joan Collins or even Nigel Havers, but the middle-aged bloke in the rakish hat, Mr Twinkletoes, Vince Cable.

I laughed when I read the transcripts of the little chat he had with two attractive young women in his constituency office in Richmond.

The gullible Mr Cable didn't realise that Holly and Heidi, two giggling twenty-something young mums anxious for an in-depth chat about party politics, were undercover reporters from the horrid Daily Telegraph, intent on persuading him to confide what he secretly thought about having to work with the nasty Tories.

There are no surprises in the ensuing revelations — just confirmation of what many of us suspected: that working with people you |hadn't even planned on getting engaged to, let alone sharing a bed with, is difficult.

Every day you have to bite your lip and pretend to the outside world that your shotgun marriage is working reasonably well and you're all chums. But deep down, you harbour seething resentment that, although you're a popular guy and a big cheese in your party, in this marriage you are firmly in the back seat.

Mr Cable won our hearts with his appearance on Desert Island Discs, when he talked of his love for his first wife, his inter-racial marriage and his passion for ballroom dancing.

We forgot the other bit of his personality — the Machiavellian streak that took him to the top in the oil industry and made him a force to be reckoned with in the Lib Dems. We were captivated by the nice side of Mr Cable, love-blind to his shortcomings. In truth, Cable is a very vain man.

Why else would he agree to appear on a BBC reality television show over Christmas, dancing? His £10,000 fee will go to charity — hardly justification for making an exhibition of yourself.

Does his prancing about in prime-time make us feel happier about the coalition's failure to regulate banks and bonuses, or its cack-handed handling of tuition fees? The problem for Mr Cable is that he's mixed up the daily grind of political compromise with self-promotion.

During the run-up to the election, he was curiously silent. Perhaps he sensed that the outcome would not be easy to live with.

Now he's got a ministerial role, but it requires humility and patience — not necessarily his strong points. Mr Cable told the Daily Telegraph undercover agents that working with the coalition was like “fighting a war”, but he had an ultimate “nuclear option” which would bring down the Government: his resignation.

When exposed in the hard light of day this assertion seems wishful thinking, a vanity promise. Four other Lib Dems, including care minister Paul Burstow fell for the Telegraph totties — all men of a certain age. What does that tell you about their egos?

Burstow says he's embarrassed by his remark that David Cameron wasn't to be trusted. He should be more embarrassed that he was so indiscreet and unprofessional when flattered by the attentions of two young women he'd never met.

Another victim of his own vanity is Julian Assange, who tells us he “enjoys” female company and that he can't see anything wrong in serial shagging with no strings attached. Now he's signed a huge deal for his autobiography.

Mr Assange, like Vince Cable, has an inflated idea of his role in the global scheme of things; he imagines he's on a mission to shine light on murky goings-on in banking and global affairs. Most of WikiLeaks's ‘revelations’ have been disappointing, banal bits of titillating gossip confirming preconceived ideas we already had about Gaddafi, Berlusconi and co.

Mr Assange is basking in the spotlight and, like Cable, the more we know about his over-inflated sense of self-worth, the less we find him impressive.

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