Cable threatens to 'bring down the Government'

The Liberal Democrat minister Vince Cable faced acute embarrassment last night after privately suggesting he could "bring down" the Coalition Government by quitting the Cabinet.

His unguarded comments shone a spotlight on the tensions behind the power-sharing deal with the Tories.

The Business Secretary, regarded as one of the Liberal Democrats least comfortable with the compromises made by the Coalition, revealed his frustrations in a conversation with undercover newspaper reporters posing as constituents.

He was recorded telling them that the Liberal Democrats had been pushing for a "very tough approach" to curbing bankers' bonuses, which had been opposed by "our Conservative friends".

He went on: "I have a nuclear option. It's like fighting a war. They know I have nuclear weapons, but I don't have any conventional weapons.

"If they push me too far then I can walk out and bring the Government down and they know that. So it is a question of how you use that intelligently without getting involved in a war which destroys all of us. That is quite a different position to be in and I am picking my fights – some of which you might have seen."

He reportedly criticised the speed at which the Coalition was trying to rush through changes in the health service and local government, warning it was in danger of getting out of control.

Mr Cable remarked: "We are trying to do too many things actually. Some of them are Lib Dem inspired, but a lot of it is Tory inspired. The problem is not that they are Tory inspired, but that they haven't thought them through. We should be putting a brake on it."

He said the cutting of child benefit for higher earners had been done in a "rather cack-handed way". He also hinted that winter fuel payments to the elderly could still be cut – despite assurances to the contrary by the Prime Minister, David Cameron.

"They haven't done the winter fuel payments, but that's coming, I think," he told the reporters.

Last night Mr Cable said: "Naturally I'm embarrassed by these comments and I regret them.

"I have no intention of leaving the Government. I am proud of what it is achieving and will continue to play my full part in delivering the priorities I and my party believe in, which are enshrined in the Coalition agreement."

The gaffe will leave Mr Cable, who was preparing for a bit of light relief over Christmas with an appearance on Strictly Come Dancing, vulnerable to Labour mockery. It also bolsters his position as the keeper of the Liberal Democrat conscience within government.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars
news
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project