So, Chris Huhne takes over from Mr Frederick Goodwin as the nation’s whipping boy. But like Fred, Chris Huhne has yet to be convicted of any criminal offence. If I were a Liberal Democrat activist (what an awful thought) I would no doubt be arguing that his political career should not suffer until he is convicted – innocent until proven guilty and all that. And in theory it’s a perfectly fair point to make. The laws of natural justice should dictate just such a thing. But we suspend the laws of natural justice for politicians, and now bankers.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not arguing the LibDem activist case, because like the rest of the world, I think it is politically naive to think that any politician can cling onto office when charged with an offence like this. Would a banker have to resign, though? Would a doctor? No. I guess the difference is that Chris Huhne is a lawmaker. But here we enter difficult territory, because you could equally argue, using that logic, that not only must he leave government, but he should be suspended from Parliament too, until his name is cleared. I’m not advocating it, I am just saying that will be where ‘’mobthink’ heads next, no doubt.
Another issue to ponder on. What if Vicky Pryce pleads guilty and Chris Huhne doesn’t? Where does that leave him? It would make his defence very difficult indeed. His statement makes clear his intention, but it is surely Pryce’s plea which is key to this.
And will Vince Cable and Miriam Clegg be called to give evidence?
Despite the fact that I disagree with many of his policies, there is no doubt that Chris Huhne has performed impressively as a Cabinet Minister. Putting their party political hats on one side, most Tory Ministers will privately admit that. I’d say he is the LibDem who has performed best in Cabinet. One Cabinet Minister said to me: “If you get Chris Huhne to agree to do something, he delivers. He’s a powerful ally in cabinet.” He’s also one of the few LibDem heavy hitters. For Nick Clegg to have lost David Laws and Chris Huhne from the Cabinet table within 18 months, it will be a bitter blow indeed. Ed Davey is no Chris Huhne. If I were Clegg, I’d give the post to Norman Lamb, a much better media performer than Ed Davey, and more popular within the party.