A Word In Your Ear - January 2, 2014

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David Cameron is quickly acquiring the unenviable reputation as a pushover by the Liberal Democrats in the Cabinet.

Why won’t he display at least a modicum of authority over those members (Business Secretary Vince Cable in particular) who appear to regard the Prime Minister with little more than contempt.

Cable’s latest brickbat is to criticise Tory fears about immigration, especially the large influx of Romanians and Bulgarians expected in the new year.

Nobody can be sure, until it happens, how substantial this influx might be, but photographs of queues of people at British diplomatic missions in both these countries make people fear the worst, with yet more strain on many of Britain’s already overloaded public services.

In a roundabout way, Cable has compared Cameron to Enoch Powell whose so-called ‘Rivers of blood’ speech caused uproar when it was delivered.

Many Tories regard this comparison as little short of a gross insult (although there are some Conservatives to whom Powell remains almost a saintly figure from the past).

Yet there has been no public rebuke from Cameron or, more tellingly, from Cable’s immediate boss, the deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg.

Any coalition cabinet has to demonstrate far more evidence of compromise - however difficult that may be to reach - than has been shown in this case. Instead, the current Cabinet is showing signs of being an arena for civil war, with the traditional concept of collective responsibility virtually abandoned.

I suppose simply ignoring Cable’s seemingly disloyal behaviour gives the Prime Minister an easier life than otherwise would be the case.

But the Government is undoubtedly weakened by the activities of Cable who, as each day passes, leaves one with the impression that he would be far happier in a coalition with Labour than with the Tories.

Equally, Danny Alexander, who has demonstrated a firm grasp of world economics in his key post of Chief Secretary to the Treasury, has publicly criticised the activities of some Tories dubious about remaining a member of the European Union.