I am intrigued by the difference between two members of the Cabinet in the coalition government, namely Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander and Business Secretary Vince Cable.
Danny Alexander speaks in support of government policies and their success in addressing problems in the economy.
These lie within the department for which he has ministerial responsibility, namely the Treasury. He claims that the Liberal Democrats deserve credit for their contribution.
Vince Cable, on the other hand, speaks out whenever he sees fit, on issues outwith his department, and criticises government policies.
Now, it is some time since we had a coalition government – in 1944 – and the then Liberal Party was within that coalition.
But Vince requires to be reminded that if he disagrees with government policies he must step down from government and be free to speak from the back benches.
It is a well-established convention that you cannot serve in a government and criticise it. To do so undermines the government’s credibility.
Vince has to decide. The honourable course would be forgo the ministerial salary and car, and spout freely. There are precedents: Geoffrey Howe, Nigel Lawson and Robin Cook. All earned much respect for their integrity.
Cable’s Cabinet colleagues should make this clear to him.