Cable stays in charge of universities and FE

21 Dec 2010

The Business Secretary, Vince Cable, will remain in charge of his department (and therefore of  higher and further education) despite his embarrassing gaffe in unwittingly telling undercover Daily Telegraph journalist about his 'war' on Rupert Murdoch.

Instead of being moved, Cable has lost responsibility for media and telecoms competition policy. After his  comments about Murdoch he can no longer take the quasi-judicial role that may be required in determining whether to approve Murdoch's bid to take control of BSkyB.

Shadow Business Secretary, John Denham, has described Cable as a 'lame duck'.

However, universities will probably breathe a sigh of relief, as they would not want to have yet another Secretary of State to deal with (although most vice-chancellors regard David Willetts as relatively sympathetic amongst Tory ministers).

Students, though, might have seen this as just desserts for Cable's support for the lifting of the tuition fee cap to a maximum of £9,000.

However, even students may accept that it is better to have a 'big-hitter' like Cable in charge of university funding at a time when the Chancellor is looking to squeeze all areas of public spending. Cable may not appear to have staved off many cuts at universities but the reality is that the loan repayment arrangements are now really quite progressive and, as a result, the Treasury is having to dig deep to fund the loans system.

Cable is also a keen defender of further education -- although, as with universities, the cuts are deep.

Listening to the tape, you have to feel a bit sorry for Cable who was caught out by a fairly shabby trick.

While he may have overstated his ability to press the button on the 'nuclear' option, he remains one of the few points of resistance to Conservative domination of coalition policy.

The question now, though, is whether his boast about his ability to bring down the government has undermined his ability to do so.


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