Vince Cable has laid down the gauntlet against his own coalition government today as he stepped up his criticism of immigration policy.
Vince was talking during a Q&A after a setpiece speech. He said the cap was “doing great damage” and cited a British company that needed 500 specialists – half of which needed to come from outside the EU – but had geen given a quota of just 30.
From an outside perspective it’s fun to see that Cable hasn’t lost his independence of mind since entering coalition. But the comments open up a hornet’s nest for the government, coming soon after similar criticism from London mayor Boris Johnson a few days ago.
I can think of other examples of ministers squabbling over policy in recent months (IDS and Osborne, Fox and Osborne, Spelman and Pickles) but they are all Tory on Tory rows.
For a Lib Dem to argue against a key coalition policy – especially one that is dear to the Tory right – is much more dangerous.
UPDATE: You can read Vince’s more detailed comments in today’s FT here. Meanwhile Pat McFadden, shadow business secretary, says the government is “hopelessly at sea on this”.
“Vince Cable’s comment that the Government’s proposed immigration cap is doing “a lot of damage” to British industry is right. The idea that a global trading nation like ours should stop talent from overseas coming to work or study here is good neither for our economy nor for our world leading position in education and research,” says McFadden.