Lib Dems gear up for a bumpy ride with Cable on the ropes

EVEN as the story of business secretary Vince Cable’s indiscretions broke late on Monday, campaigners linked with the the office of Liberal Democrat deputy leader Simon Hughes were frantically sending out press releases.

Surely an example of an impressive scale-up of the famously scatty Lib Dem media operation?

Er, not quite.
“Don't use King’s Stairs Gardens for your tunnel, Simon Hughes tells Thames Water,” announced the urgent release, with quotes aplenty from Hughes on the importance of preserving a local park in Rotherhithe.

And, to show Hughes' appreciation for the place, the campaign team was kind enough to include a snap of himself on a sled geared up for a steep downhill ride. Be careful what you wish for, Simon!?

Meanwhile, foreign secretary William Hague’s office would have us believe that he was standing by on Twitter at the very moment Cable was arriving in Downing Street for crisis talks.

“Good news that an Iraqi government has now been formed – improves prospects for stability,” he tweeted at 4.20pm. Radio silence on the coalition’s state of affairs, alas.

But even as Labour MPs flooded social networking sites with demands that Cable resign, Lib Dems were taking a lead from their festive-minded leader. Jo Swinson, deputy leader of the Scottish Lib Dems, was posting pictures of Christmas trees on Twitter, while the left-leaning party activists’ group the Social Liberal Forum was soliciting entries for its “question time with Vince Cable”, suggesting that members might like to query him on university funding. It seemed it hadn’t quite hit home that media regulation was, by then, a little further up the agenda.

SATELLITE TWEETS
Luckily, Paddy Power was a little more on the ball than the Lib Dems. Scarcely a day had gone by before the bookies jumped on the Cable-bashing bandwagon, announcing that odds on the business secretary to resign had shortened from 5/4 to 1/6 after his comments on Murdoch emerged.

As for those willing to take a really long punt, you can now bet on what Cable is likely to be up to on Christmas Day.

You can get 40/1 for a bet that he’ll be spotted removing a Sky satellite dish from his family home, 250/1 that he’ll be editing the Times, and 500/1 that he’ll be invited over to the Murdochs for a Christmas Day kiss and make-up.

Still, the prize for the quickest off the mark has to go to Labour MP Ian Cawsey, who tweeted at 4pm: “Vince v Rupert it’s that age old argument cable or satellite!” Time for a career move sideways into stand-up, surely?

BOARDROOM SCOWLS
It seems that not everyone is entranced with incoming Lloyds chief executive Antonio Horta-Osorio. Known as an incorrigable charmer, the Portuguese Horta-Osorio has wowed media and bankers alike, with few at Lloyds having a bad word to say about him despite his reputation as a ruthless cost-cutter.

Until now, that is. The Capitalist hears that the bank’s chairman Sir Win Bischoff was less than amused by his swift recruitment of two of his loyal lieutenants from Santander UK.

In response to a light-hearted joke asking whether they’d now be speaking Portuguese in Lloyds board meetings, we’re told Bischoff pulled a terrible scowl.

And sources close to Lloyds tartly reminded The Capitalist that the new recruits “are
Spanish anyway”. So there.

HELLO, GORGEOUS
Given their unpopularity, banking lobbyists have a reputation as a careful bunch. But it seems it’s not beyond the goons of the British Bankers’ Association (BBA) to add a little colour to the job.

The BBA’s out-of-hours contact number yesterday was going straight to voicemail – understandably, perhaps, given the time of year – but who was the saucy lady whose answerphone we’d reached?

“Well, hello,” said the voice, “You’ve reached gorgeous me. Please leave your message.”
But who is the gorgeous owner of this appealing voice? Let us know.

FINN-KISS
Speaking of gorgeous, The Capitalist hears rumour of a delightful picture of finnCap chief executive Sam Smith circulating among brokers. We’re told she appears clad in a lovely Santa-themed mini-dress, posing under the mistletoe with a similarly lovely broker. Anyone want to send the pic our way?

CITY FACES
Following on from The Capitalist’s notice last week about Winkball, the online video site, the website held a successful “faces for the forces” campaign day on Friday.

The aim is to collect 500,000 short videos of celebrities and members of the public giving Christmas messages of support for the armed forces, with the campaign already over 400,000, including videos from David Cameron, Nick Clegg and a variety of footballers and singers.

And they added an impressive 1,500 to that headcount in just six hours in the City last week. Among those taking part were at least a couple of workers from Lloyds, including Jo Scott, digital comms manager, and Neil Barclay. “Happy Christmas to you all,” said Scott, with Barclay saying, “Keep the good work going”. Well worth a few minutes out of the day.