Belfast Telegraph

Fancy footwork may help Cable side-step sacking

From pas de deux to faux-pas, life is proving eventful for Business Secretary Vince Cable, who may not be invincible in his career as a high-ranking member of the coalition government.

Mr Cable, who has been tripping the light fantastic as a celebrity contestant on a Christmas Strictly Come Dancing special, has been removed from making decisions in the £7.8bn takeover bid by News Corp for the 61% of BSkyB it doesn't already own.

The generally well-liked politician danced his way into a crisis when he loosened his tongue in front of two Daily Telegraph reporters who were posing as parents concerned over benefits.

Not only did he let rip on the future of the Coalition as he saw it - Mr Cable claimed he could bring down the Liberal Democrat/Tory power-sharing - but he also expressed his views on the takeover bid by Rupert Murdoch, which has raised concerns about media plurality in Britain.

"I am picking my fights, some of which you may have seen...And I don't know if you have been following what has been happening with the Murdoch press, where I have declared war on Mr Murdoch and I think we are going to win."

The gaffe has not cost him his job at this point, but is that mere seasonal goodwill on the part of Mr Cable's boss, David Cameron?

So far the nimble Mr Cable has side-stepped resignation. The punishment for stepping out of line thus far has been to be deprived of any input into whether the takeover is given the green light.

That job has now been given to Culture Minister Jeremy Hunt.

But it's unlikely Mr Cable can bounce back from this crisis, as he has committed a major breach of the ministerial code by voicing his opinion so rashly. And it is unprecedented for a minister to lose pivotal decision-making power yet remain in post.

Ironically, Peter Mandelson, Mr Cable's predecessor as Business Secretary, also faced a number of political crises and resigned twice over an undeclared home loan and a passport controversy.

The pair also share a love of ballroom dancing, a quirk of fate which has been gleefully seized upon in this column before.

But 'Mandy' lived on in politics, and his many precedents of coming back from a crisis could be useful inspiration to his successor.