A top minister in the David Cameron government has been caught in a newspaper sting in which he threatened to bring down the UK's coalition government if he was 'pushed too far', causing much embarrassment and forcing him into an apology.
Vince Cable, Business secretary and one of the major Liberal Democrat figures after deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, told two undercover reporters in his constituency office that being in the coalition with the Conservative party is 'like fighting a war'.
It is well known that Cable is uneasy with the government's major spending cuts and immigration policy, and had hinted that he could vote against his own department's bill to raise the fees of university students.
Cable told the two reporters from the Daily Telegraph, who posed as mothers worried about cuts to child benefit: "I have a nuclear option; it's like fighting a war.
They know I have nuclear weapons, but I don't have any conventional weapons. If they push me too far, then I can walk out and bring the government down; and they know that".
He added: "So it is a question of how you use that intelligently, without getting involved in a war that destroys all of us.
That is quite a difficult position to be in, and I'm picking my fights. Some of which you may have seen."
In a statement on Monday night, an embarrassed Cable said he remained committed to the coalition and had no intention of leaving. He said: "Naturally I am embarrassed by these comments, and I regret them. I have no intention of leaving the government.
I am proud of what it is achieving and will continue to play my full part in delivering the priorities I and my party believe in, which are enshrined in the coalition agreement."
His comments were pounced upon by the opposition Labour party which said that the coalition government was 'paralysed by cross-party squabbles'.
In his conversation with the undercover reporters, Cable said he had been involved in a "big argument" over how to deal with the banks, with the Liberal Democrats pressing for a "very tough approach" which was opposed by "our Conservative friends".
He asked the reporters not to quote him "outside" and criticised the speed at which the coalition was attempting change, saying: "There is a kind of Maoist revolution happening in a lot of areas like the health service, local government, reform, all this kind of stuff, which is in danger of getting out of control.
We are trying to do too many things, actually."