Vince Cable’s political judgement has been cruelly exposed as non-existent over the way in which he has now smoothed Mr Murdoch’s path to total ownership of BSkyB: it’s hard to imagine a more extravagant example of shooting oneself in the foot. To make easier a result you have publicly (however unintentionally) declared yourself to be determined to avoid is more than cack-handed – it’s disastrous.
And yet, of course, this political ineptitude has its roots elsewhere altogether. Mr Cable’s downfall is not ultimately political, but personal. It is his vanity, and the ease with which he was duped into displaying it, which is his real and most unattractive failing. It is almost breath-taking: posturing about his personal “nuclear option”; declaring his personal “war on Mr Murdoch”. All this self-importance, this puffing up of his own centrality to everything, this claim to be a one-man-band of political power, this self-idolatry: these are the fundamental flaws which have landed him in the richly deserved mess in which he now finds himself. There are also suggestions of other kinds of vanity at work here, as apparently the fake female constituents indulged in some eyelash-fluttering. I leave it to “the ladies” to reflect on just what level of self-deception might have been required for Mr Cable to see himself as a Lothario.
Of course it is tempting – and a temptation far too often indulged – to see these personal failings only in those with whom one is not in sympathy, whilst being much more lenient with those one, for other reasons, perhaps admires. So I have no hesitation in finding the same self-aggrandising faults (save, I assume, the Lothario bit) in the blogger Penny Red (Laurie Penny). Her breathless recounting of how her tweeting from the students’ demonstrations set in train an almost revolutionary series of events culminating in a new political awareness amongst the young, including such ripe self-congratulation as, “Within seconds, I had pulled out my phone to tweet about what I had seen; within minutes, the backlash had begun as outraged citizens all over the country found supporting evidence of the assault and let each other know what had happened. By the time I arrived home, bloody and bruised from further police violence, the assault on Jody had made the national press” has all the hallmarks of Mr Cable at his vain-glorious best.
Whenever I read, or hear, anyone – whether I agree with their stance on the pertinent issues or not – declaiming their personal part in some wider political process in this kind of way, I make a mental note: pride first; fall later.