Wednesday, December 22 2010
There are two schools of thought about what has happened to the business secretary Vince Cable.
One view is that he has been humiliated and humbled and was foolish to be so outspoken - albeit in comments he thought would never enter the public domain. He's been stripped of certain responsibilities and is a lesser figure than he was.
Politicians cherish and guard their power more than anything and he has been stripped of much of his. So, he's a diminished politician and a busted flush. As the BBC's Nick Robinson put it, he pushed the nuclear button but only managed to blow himself up.
The other theory goes that in articulating his views about the Murdoch deal and other matters, he has strengthened his position - at least for the Liberal Democrats - as the party's and coalition's conscience.
That may be the case but the net result of his entrapment is that he has been left with no clout over the issue he appeared most concerned about. And for a politician, that's not a good outcome.
Did The Telegraph cross the line in recording MPs? I'm not sure - some are questioning whether there was a genuine public interest case in doing so and whether the tactic exposed genuine wrong-doing or misconduct and not just indiscrete comments about policy differences.
I do know that it is likely to make politicians even more wary of talking to people and being candid about their views. One Kent MP told me today that he would now be extra-cautious when constituents came to see him and that the climate in which any comment or off-the-cuff remark could be turned into a headline made it all the more difficult to do talk freely.
Which is not necessarily beneficial for politics.