Unguarded comments

The unguarded comments of some Liberal Democrat ministers have caused some controversy.  Some are not that surprising, or especially worrying.  Paul Burstow told the undercover reporters:   “I don’t want you to trust David Cameron… in the sense that you believe he’s suddenly become a cuddly Liberal. Well, he hasn’t.  He’s still a Conservative and he has values that I don’t share.”   Well, that’s something of a relief.

The comments of Vince Cable are in a different category, given that he made comments that prejudice his ministerial quasi-judicial role.  The fact that he has had his responsibilities transferred rather than being removed from office has attracted considerable attention.  The fact of the coalition imposes constraints on the Prime Minister.  Under the Coaltion Agreement for Stability and Reform, Nick Clegg has a right to nominate Liberal Democrat ministers and to be consulted on their dismissal or transfer to other posts.  The position of the Prime Minister is not as clear cut as is normally the case.

About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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10 Responses to Unguarded comments

  1. Carl.H says:

    Isn`t it this ministerial quasi-judicial role that we have debated recently ? Should one person who WILL be bias one way or the other have this power.

    The power that Vince Cable had has now been passed to Jeremy Hunt who if the media are to be believed is biased in an opposite direction.

    The concept of Parliament was that with different parties we could conclude a fair independent decision. I feel with more power being given to Ministers weekly we are approaching something akin to Nazi Germany and our only saviours from that appear to be the Judiciary . We have seen recently due to Ministerial side-stepping of scrutiny the immigration cap being over-turned by the Courts. These things should not be allowed to progress this far in a democratic parliament, infact Mr. Balls called the Home Secretaries action “illegal”.

    If one were a conspiracy theory person one could believe that Mr. Murdoch may have engineered the whole scenario so that the decision did infact rest with Jeremy Hunt who is known to support the Murdoch bid.

    • Lord Norton says:

      Carl.H: There is a potential problem whenever such powers are vested in one person. Perhaps I should take over the responsibility, given that I haven’t yet brought my mind to bear on the issue!

      In British politics, the cock-up theory is generally more applicable than the conspiracy theory.

      • Carl.H says:

        I believe the former of the two theories or the attempt/fantasy of was what got Vince into trouble initially.

        Seem`s the choices are let one person decide. Wrong
        Have a Quango or it`s ilk that takes too long at much cost. Wrong

        It`s this darn democracy thing again isn`t it.

  2. djb13 says:

    I’ve talked to plenty of people who say that this isn’t a gaffe at all. For a lot of people this has reassured them that the Lib Dems haven’t actually sold out.

    • Croft says:

      Past polling evidence suggests saying one thing in public and another in private (and being discovered) is damaging.

      Carl/LN: There is difference I suggest between thinking ‘X’ before you are presented with guidance and advice and making a reasonable presumption that they will consider it fairly. Otherwise no politician would ever be able to make a decision.

      The decision on whether to sack/move VC was interesting and I’m not sure exactly what the calculation was – several equally convincing arguments come to mind. I doubt though it would have been the same had David Laws been available.

      • Lord Norton says:

        Croft: I agree on both points. It would be unlikely that many would have a completely open mind prior to receiving advice but the important consideration is to keep one’s views to oneself. Vince Cable’s offence was not only what he said but the circumstances in which he said it. It will be interesting to see what happens as and when David Laws does become available.

      • Croft says:

        Btw Am I the only one who feels that the DL investigation has dragged on for an unacceptable length of time.

    • Lord Norton says:

      djb13: If it is, it seems a rather cack-handed way of going about it. He appears less sure-footed on the political stage than he is on the dance floor! (Not that I’ve seen him dance. Never watch the programme.)

      • djb13 says:

        I think the cack-handedness is what makes it so reassuring. It doesn’t feel like it’s possible this was intentional, so it feels genuine. Obviously it could all be a giant bluff, but I don’t think many people think that deeply.

        Vince was excellent on the dance floor, it was well worth watching. I’d myself begun watching to see Ann Widdeombe’s contribution (which was worth watching in a different way).

      • Lord Norton says:

        djb13: I agree about cack-handedness. I fear, though, that Strictly Come Dancing is not the sort of programme to hold my attention!

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