The Sketch: Vince shows that he's the master of having it both ways

We searched, largely in vain, for a twitch of mutually hostile body language between Clegg and Cable

Share

Vince Cable has had the luck as a politician to see some of his enemies spontaneously combust. Bob Diamond. Rupert Murdoch. Er… Nick Clegg?

Perish the thought, of course. As the two men – so inseparable you wondered whether either was prepared to let the other out of his sight – toured the Ricardo hi-tech engineering plant in Shoreham yesterday, Clegg seemed the chattier, Cable the more subdued, preoccupied perhaps by his imminent Big Speech.

We searched, largely in vain, for a twitch of mutually hostile body language. Asked, twice, about Boris Johnson's mischief-making call in yesterday's Daily Telegraph for the Lib Dem leader to be preserved for the nation, Clegg preceded his game dismissal of the London Mayor's intervention by describing him as the "nation's greatest celebrity politician". Could this have been an ultra-subtle dig at Vince – Boris's main rival for this dubious title?

Who can tell? Certainly Cable yesterday eschewed overt Borisian self-aggrandisement at the expense of his leader. Instead, his speech showed distinct signs of Vince having it both ways. In the Government but not wholly of it. In particular, he indulged in a bout of only somewhat circumspect – and from the floor, well applauded – Tory-bashing.

His best and unscripted joke, "Not now, Ed", came as he seemed to reach for his mobile phone after an unrepentant reference to his SMS flirtation with the Labour leader. He regarded it as a "badge of honour" to have been the minister most Tory activists wanted removed. And to have seen off the "head-bangers who want a hire-and-fire culture and seem to find sacking people an aphrodisiac".

But it was in his forecast of a likely hung parliament after the next election that it was possible for conspiracy theorists to see a nascent problem for Clegg. Cable pointed to Labour's "reasonable" poll ratings while summarising everything that went wrong with Labour's 13 years in office.

Cable added that Labour had "scarcely begun the long march" back from its demise. You had a sense that it was a long march he wouldn't mind putting his boots on for when the moment came. And the unspoken corollary might have just been that Labour would find him a more congenial partner than Clegg. After all, had Boris, shamelessly stirring the pot as only Boris can, not written that morning that Clegg was "probably a natural Tory"?

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Our representatives must represent us

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
MP David Lammy would become the capital’s first black mayor if he won the 2016 Mayoral election  

Crime, punishment and morals: we’re entering a maze with no clear exit

Simon Kelner
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot