Chris Huhne’s political career is over. That’s not a sentence I expected to be typing today.
I had thought Chris would somehow squeak through his court case by the skin of his teeth. Certainly when I spoke to Chris at the last Lib Dem conference he was confident (his default mode, it’s true, but still). But now his career lies in tatters.
Last year he resigned as a cabinet minister; this year he’ll resign as an MP. And all over a speeding charge – or more to the point his attempt to cover up a speeding charge. It’s always, always the lie that kills you.
A couple of tweets caught my eye. First, Olly Grender’s mortification at having robustly defended Chris from all-comers, a reminder that lying isn’t a victimless crime:
— Olly Grender (@OllyGrender) February 4, 2013
But also a reminder from Lord (Chris) Rennard that however hard his downfall, Chris’s career – especially as Energy and Climate Change secretary – was not without its successes:
— Chris Rennard (@LordRennard) February 4, 2013
Many other Lib Dems will be reflecting on the bullet the party dodged. Chris stood for the party leadership twice – though he was easily defeated by Ming Campbell in 2006, only the slimmest of wafer-thin margins prevented him from beating Nick Clegg in 2007. I was one of those who voted for him, even did some phone canvassing for him. (On the QT as I wanted to stay publicly neutral as LDV’s then sole editor.) Whither the party now if he had won?
And of course attention will now turn to the forthcoming by-election. Eastleigh is a marginal seat. Chris had a majority of 3,864, and a 3.5% swing to the Tories would turn the seat blue. That said, the party’s incredibly strong locally. It will be a fascinating event, not least because this is the first modern by-election where two governing parties will be competing fiervcely against each other.
As legal proceedings are currently taking place, personal comments about either Vicky or Chris won’t be published at least until the trial has concluded and then only if they’re in accordance with our published comments policy.
* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.