As we get ready for tonight’s second TV debate, it’s worth taking a moment to reflect on one of the reasons why Nick Clegg did so well in the first debate and also why the party was poised in a happy and strong position such that Nick’s debate victory boosted the party to first place in many polls. That reason? Chris Huhne.
Not only did Chris Huhne play the role of Gordon Brown in the debate preparations, but the very fact that a closely defeated leadership candidate was used in such a role reflects on how closely and how well Nick and Chris now work together.
Their leadership contest was tetchy at times and finished a nail bitter. Some predicted the outcome would doom the party to splits and further trauma, but Chris has played his role perfectly. Despite for many months the media being desperate to run “Huhne and Clegg row” stories, he did not feed them even the slightest slip that could be misrepresented and he is now one of Nick’s closest advisers, in frequent contact in a way that puts the petulance amongst senior Labour figures to shame. What a contrast also from the leadership splits and personal animosity in the Conservatives under a series of leaders since 1997.
Chris deserves our thanks for behaving with sense, loyalty and good judgement in a way that so many senior MPs in the other parties repeatedly failed to do.