Public Affairs: Soap Box - Dave McCullough, account director, Insight Public Affairs

Ed Miliband may have headed off on holiday with a new sense of purpose and his critics silenced, for now.

But while credit must be given for his authoritative stance on 'Hackgate', it has created an opportunity for the Liberal Democrats.

For the first time since May 2010, the Lib Dems are not getting the blame for something unpopular. Clegg has some breathing space, up until his Birmingham conference at least, and he almost seemed to enjoy telling the Today programme that he had expressed his reservations about Andy Coulson's appointment to the Prime Minister during the coalition negotiations.

However, some Lib Dems, still seething over the No2AV campaign, will have been disappointed to see him revert back to the loyal 'assistant to the Prime Minister' mode at his press conference the following day. Clegg seems genuinely torn over how to position himself in regard to his relationship with the PM, but he needs to change course soon. Otherwise, he may have no party to lead, if he's even still in post after the 2015 election.

It is Vince Cable who has emerged from Hackgate vindicated. The only surprising facet of the whole episode is how reticent he's been about how he was right - again. With Vince re-emerging from his bunker, Lib Dems have cause for optimism. He seems to be the only senior figure in their ranks willing to assert himself and pick a fight on the big issues.

The party needs a new strategy if it's going to emerge from 9 per cent poll ratings. Mixing it with a weakened Prime Minister might just be the way forward.

If Clegg lets his big beasts off the leash, there could be light at the end of the tunnel. But if Clegg and Danny Alexander continue their 'gone native' routine, it may well be all over, with nothing to show for it other than the memoirs.

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