Lib Dems will not support Hunt

From the BBC:

Lib Dem MPs are to abstain in a Commons vote on Wednesday calling for an investigation into whether Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has broken the ministerial code of conduct.

Labour want his handling of News Corp’s BSkyB bid examined by David Cameron’s adviser on ministers interests.

The BBC’s Nick Robinson said Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg had told a meeting of his MPs and peers not to “support the Tories on this one” and “to stay away”.

Mr Cameron has fully backed Mr Hunt.

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49 Comments

  • Fair enough for Government members but the rest should have been given a free choice. Abstaining is as good as a vote for Hunt in this case..

  • Peter Hayes 12th Jun '12 - 6:38pm

    If this does not need a free vote then I’m going to have to resign my national membership whilst delivering for my local MP (Martin Horwood) and council members.

    Pete H

  • The decision taken at the Lib Dem parliamentary party meeting is reported as having been “unanimous”, which implies that whether the vote is whipped or a free one, our MPs have collectively concluded that the proper course for them is to abstain : so I do not think that Peter Hayes need treat this as a resigning issue – and long may he continue to deliver for Martin Horwood !

  • Simon Bamonte 12th Jun '12 - 7:02pm

    So is this the “new politics” then? Standing quiet on the sidelines and whistling while serious allegations of corruption are being voted on? It isn’t the first time the Tories have been caught being sleazy in this government. Here’s another chance to differentiate ourselves from our Tory “friends” by saying we won’t stand for allegations of corruption while we are in government. Instead..our MPs will simply abstain. How very brave of them. And how very disappointing for those of us who truly believed our party was different from the other lot. This surely isn’t leadership by example.

    Come the next election, people will rightly be asking why they should vote for us. Abstaining in this issue and not standing up for a full inquiry will be just more fodder for those who say we’re Tory stooges and unwilling to stand up to them when they have serious questions to answer.

  • Fair enough decision. Nice over reaction Peter!

  • I think it’s worth remembering the vote is not calling for his resignation merely for an independent investigation. There will be times in the future when this course of action will remove any moral legitimacy from Lib Dem calls for similar action. If he escapes investigation over this because Lib Dems abstain it will give more ammunition to Labour at the next election.

  • Peter Hayes 12th Jun '12 - 7:19pm

    Sorry Hugh P but I feel anything less than a free vote is at least a partial acceptance of what Hunt has done. I have watched many hours of the Leveson enquiry on the BBC news channel and I have been impressed by the selective amnesia of some witnesses , Murdoch might claim senility and not be fit for the job he does, others are at best prevaricating or others might say ly….

  • Tony Dawson 12th Jun '12 - 7:25pm

    @hugh p

    ” our MPs have collectively concluded that the proper course for them is to abstain”

    ‘Proper’? Or ‘politically expedient?

  • Richard Dean 12th Jun '12 - 8:24pm

    Abstaining would reinforce the impression that many voters have that this party is a waste of space.

  • I am truly shocked and dismayed at this decision, nothing else to say really

  • Tony Dawson 12th Jun '12 - 9:03pm

    The (non-attributable, perhaps it cam from a SPAD?) Lib Dem ‘line’ is (Guardian):

    “The Lib Dem sources said their MPs would abstain on a Labour motion in the Commons on Wednesday calling for Hunt to be referred to Allan. Clegg, giving evidence to the Leveson inquiry on Wednesday, wants to show that his party did not develop cosy relations with News Corp.

    The Liberal Democrats said they would not be backing the Labour motion because it is for Cameron alone to decide whether to refer someone to Allan. They added that they did not want to be seen to side with a Labour party that had used special advisers such as Damian McBride, who worked with Gordon Brown.”

    Have they a clue how weak this sounds? Once you start voting on things according to who else might be voting with you, you are totally lost.

  • Peter Hayes 12th Jun '12 - 9:29pm

    Tony Dawson you have made the point, how can we in a Con/Dem constituency show how we differ if we wimp out as we have on Hunt.

  • I thought our view as a Party was that we did not think the reference to the investigation should be triggered only by the PM. This surely leaves cases like this, where it is likely that the PM has issues themselves in the case concerned, as something of a conflict of interest. Cameron has already shown, by his attempt (in vain) to get Leveson to adjudicate on Hunt, that he is not prepared to take any decision to refer in this case. He then, wrongly, after hearing Leveson’s view that it was not for him to adjudicate, “cleared” Hunt without further ado, seeming to pay no attention to Leveson’s thoughts on the subject. In circumstances like that, it seems that the reputation of Parliament for keeping a clean house, so soon after the Expenses Scandal, would be paramount, and that Lib Dems should be the clean party in this. This, after all, is what Nick Clegg was seen mouthing at PMQ the other day, while the PM was claiming that “we had all got too close”

  • They may as well vote with the Tories than abstain, same result either way; more media fuel on its way.

  • When is this party going to grow a pair?

    When will the party start installing that aged old promise, to clean up politics and be more open and transparent?

    When will this party regain any shred of integrity and moral standings?

    I fear the answer is after the 2015 election when 95% of Liberal Democrat MP’s have lost their seats and it is then left to the remaining few to struggle for another 50 years to gain any credibility.

    It must be agony for some to watch decades of hard work and dedication to the party to only be ruined in a couple of short years.

  • Peter Watson 12th Jun '12 - 10:49pm

    This is just so weak that I hope it is not true.
    We have briefings by Lib Dem sources that Clegg might have told Cameron to refer Hunt. We have leaks about what might have been said to our MPs in a meeting. Apparently Clegg is telling our MPs to not express an opinion on this, and then spinning it as “not supporting the conservatives”. More examples of how Clegg et al have given coalition government a bad name.
    Joining in the discussions on this site was reassuring me that the party is worth sticking with, but if our MPs can’t bring themselves to come down on one side or the other over the question: “should Jeremy Hunt be referred to an independent investigation into whether or not he broke the ministerial code” then I have lost faith in the lot of them.

  • Richard Dean 12th Jun '12 - 10:51pm

    The reality is perhaps that this may just be a distant, relatively unimportant memory to many voters by the time 2015 comes along and more feelable things start happening, such as austerity biting

  • This party is the ONLY party that didn’t brown-nose Murdoch. Why should we give any credence to the Labour Party’s total hypocrisy by supporting them.

    Labour, the Tories & the SNP are all guilty of crawling to Murdoch & producing right wing populist policy to please his tabloids.

    Perhaps you should read what ex-Sun editor David Yelland had to say on the LibDems & Murdoch: “Nick Clegg’s rise could lock Murdoch and the media elite out of UK politics” http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/apr/18/clegg-media-elite-murdoch-lib-dem

    Strange that the Telegraph doesn’t seem to share your analysis of wimping out either:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/9328002/Coalition-at-war-over-Jeremy-Hunt-and-BSkyB.html

  • It just gets more nonsensical

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-18419121

    Don Foster states in this clip that Clegg would have preferred the matter to be referred…. So when given the chance to vote for exactly that the parliamentary party decide to abstain.

  • Peter Watson 12th Jun '12 - 11:39pm

    @Colin W
    How can anyone say it’s not wimping out? The article you link to says, “Sources close to Mr Clegg took the unusual step of providing details of the Liberal Democrat leader’s concerns over the Prime Minister’s handling of the issue.” By abstaining we are not endorsing Camerons decision to not refer Hunt, but we are not disagreeing with it either: we are simply doing and saying nothing. This is wimping out. This is weak. If Clegg has an opinion why can he not share it with those of us who voted for him instead of resorting to leaks, briefings and anonymous sources: all things that can be plausibly denied if the wind changes, all things LDs accused Gordon Brown of doing but now adopt enthusiastically.
    I still believe in the Lib Dems but I have lost faith in those who lead and represent us.
    I still believe in coalition government but I have lost confidence in those who are practising it.

  • When you witness this bizarre decision making time and again, you have to wonder sometimes whether the whole of the LibDem leadership is suffering from a collective, Dunning-Kruger Syndrome.

  • @ ColinW
    Yelland’s article (written in the heat of ‘Cleggmania’) is an anachronism and the Telegraph article doesn’t exactly imply that Nick Clegg has grown a pair.
    Should the Hunt referral vote fall, it will exasperate most LibDem supporters that their representatives were ordered to abstain rather than vote for the investigation, cause ill-will among Conservative coalition colleagues and further confirm to the country that this party’s leadership has lost its moral core.

  • Barry George 13th Jun '12 - 12:15am

    Clegg wants an investigation , So he instructs the party to vote to ensure that there is no such investigation … hmmm

    The man is a walking oxymoron !

  • Paul McKeown 13th Jun '12 - 2:29am

    I really think the LD MPs should vote to refer Hunt, even if it is only the MPs who are not in on the government payroll. This whole affair is tainting the Conservatives in the same way as (the perception of) sleaze did for Major’s government: although it might cause a nasty short term row between the Coalition partners, on deeper reflection the Conservatives will realise it stops the rot eating at them any further. As it is, the public will view the LDs as scared to say boo to their governing partners.

  • Peter Watson 13th Jun '12 - 8:04am

    @Paul McKeown
    “I really think the LD MPs should vote to refer Hunt”
    I agree with you, but that is not the most important issue for me.
    I believe that they should just vote. If they believe Hunt should be referred they should say so and vote for the motion. If they believe that he should not be referred, or agree that whatever their opinion it should be the prime minister’s decision (pretty lame position though) then they should say so and vote against the motion.
    Burying their heads in the sand, saying little openly but briefing through sources close to Clegg, spinning “not endorsing” the PM’s decision as if it were the same as taking a stand against it, … this weakness and lack of principle is so disappointing.

  • Once again the party’s appetite for sixth form rational debating about an issue shows how much Clegg lacks any real political nuance. Swinson’s ‘defence’ of the party’s position on the BBC this morning was laughable – ‘we aint going to do much cos those naughty Labour people had an advisor too’ – how many more times is this line going to be rolled out to the electorate?

    Here was an opportunity for the party to define itself in the public eye as being distinctive and willing to rock the boat on principle – the Tories don’t hesitate when it comes to their side of the coalition.. where is the political fight, where is the political guts and sadly the answer comes back time after time in the public view that whatever they saw of that during the election campaign and what a lot voted for is simply not there any more.

  • Peter Watson 13th Jun '12 - 8:29am

    @peebee
    I find the Damian McBride excuse laughable. Are our MPs saying that they now think Labour’s behaviour was good, ordo they think that it means every party is allowed one dodgy special adviser to even things up (though surely the conservatives used up their get-out-of-jail-free card with Adam Werrity)?
    Weak, unprincipled, hypocritical: maybe our MPs are more suited to government than I thought, but so much for a new kind of politics.

  • ……When will this party regain any shred of integrity and moral standings?….

    There is a lot of false public outrage by the Tory party who must be, in fact, very satisfied by our stance on this. Are these the same politicians who, in opposition, demanded, “No cover-up” over Iraq? I look forward to the next time we feel the need to demand an enquiry.
    Clegg has ‘instructed’ LibDem MPs to abstain, thereby ensuring Hunt will not be even investigated, this removes any doubt in Cameron’s mind that some LibDems might vote with Labour and spoil his party. Still, why are we surprised? Two weeks ago Mensch told the BBC that she knew Hunt would get a parliamentary majority in his favour

  • Dave Eastham 13th Jun '12 - 8:42am

    Even if the motives and record of the Labour Party are not exactly that of un-driven snow on this issue, surely Lib Dems can do better than this?. David Cameron has shown somewhat less than credible judgement in making his announcement 25 minutes after Jeremy Hunt had given his evidence at the Leveson enquiry. One of the issues is the process of referral. Surely it would be better if Parliament itself had the power to make such referrals, rather than the potential for a less than objective decision in the hands of the Prime Minister of the day?.. An abstention is just weak and will ensure the motion is likely to be defeated. So what if it’s a stunt?. The Lib Dems at least should support the principle of the issue, even if the motives of those bringing it are suspect. If as a result Ed Milliband is stupid enough to table a confidence motion as a result of it passing, I’m sure a short reply along the lines of that used by the publication Private Eye, when responding to legal threats will more than suffice.

  • Tony Dawson 13th Jun '12 - 8:54am

    ColinW :

    “This party is the ONLY party that didn’t brown-nose Murdoch. Why should we give any credence to the Labour Party’s total hypocrisy by supporting them.”

    That is NOT what a vote in the House of Commons is meant to be about. Once you reduce parliamentary activity to a game designed to protect your own backside in PR terms, then you have lost the plot completely. You have lost the plot even more completely when you chose a PR move which does not even have the effect you have dreamed up that it ought to have! 🙁

    The Telegraph is right that failing to vote for ‘No Inquiry’ has ensured a row within the coalition (which may fester or fizzle out) but that is not the point. Our party appears to Joe/Joanne Public to be using procedural manoeuvres to play games instead of voting on principle.

  • If there is one issue that needs addressing, as demonstrated by Leveson and elsewhere, it is standards in public life. Not only could the Party demonstrate that it does obey a moral code by voting for an investigation, but it would also do much to help recover the lost support since the Coalition was formed.

    As has been pointed out, greater credibility would have been gained had NC supported Cameron’s decision, because of some misguided loyalty, than this manipulative reaction. This has left Milliband seeming the righteous one.

    Given NC’s apparent lack of concern for the Party’s future, a dispassionate observer might conclude that he has made alternative arrangements with DC , concerning his own future, immediately before or after the next GE.

  • Well, I’m glad we’re not supporting that smug Hunt. Now can we do something about opposing him?

    How about an amendment calling for the decision to refer a minister to be with a parliamentary committee instead of the Prime Minister? Sounds like a job for the Standards and Privileges Committee, though that committee’s current remit seems a bit narrow.

    I also note this Statement from the Chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, Sir Christopher Kelly:

    “There can be no doubt that the allegations that have been made about the boundaries and behaviours of Ministers, special advisers and the civil service need to be properly investigated. It is important for public confidence in the integrity of government and also in fairness to the individuals concerned that this is done – and done reasonably quickly.

    One obvious way to do it is by asking the Independent Adviser on Ministerial Interests to look at them. It was this kind of occasion the Committee on Standards in Public Life had in mind in recommending the creation of the post.

    If it is to be done instead by Lord Leveson as part of his inquiry then it needs to be clear that all the standards issues, including those relating to the Ministerial Code, are regarded as being within his remit and will indeed be looked at. It would be helpful to have that put beyond doubt.”

  • david thorpe 13th Jun '12 - 11:25am

    there wont be an invetsigation whatever way the MPS vote, its not a binding vote on parlaiment, and only cameron can launch an investigation. there is quite simply no way in which the Lib Dems can vote that would make an enquiry more or less likley.

    end of stoiry

  • Abstaining is merely reinforcing those who say the party is a waste of time. Clegg’s judgement is up there with the guy who decided how many lifeboats to put on the Titanic. “A different kind of politics my ar$e” as they would say in the Royle Family.

    Cameron cosied up to Murdoch, Cameron appointed Coulson, Cameron appointed Hunt, Cameron launched Leveson, Cameron failed to consult Clegg before determining Hunt had no case to answer. Cameron made his own bed on this, why can’t we vote to let him sleep in it?

  • David Thorpe, your posting seems to assume this to be a short term tactical issue, as in some respects does the way that the Parliamentary Party have decided to act. This is a long term strategic issue, in terms of our policy positioning, and the weight of voting pressure we can apply if required to Cameron’s backside. If we vote with Labour we are reinforcing two things, 1 Our wish to have a better process, in open parliamentary referral to an investigation, and 2 Our concerns at ownership domination by media organisations, and especially by Murdoch. I agree with all the others posting here that it shows weakness, and shows Cameron that when the chips are down we will not vote against them, whatever the issue.

  • This is not a coalition issue, this is an integrity issue. The motions seeks to refer Hunt’s behaviour to Allan, which Cameron didn’t. (how did Warsi feel about that?). Lib Dems are perfectly justified in voting with Labour as who wants to be part of a coalition government with the question of Hunt’s integrity hanging over it. Vote for the referral and clear the air around the government.

    Robin Lynn
    Cardiff South & Penarth

  • It is clear Clegg wants Hunt to be referred but the perception is that he hasn’t got the guts to take the action to try and make that happen. If the Lib-Dems are so anti-Labour that they won’t even vote with the Labour Party on an issue such as this it is quite clear that the party is going to go into the next election completely tied to the Tories apron strings. The only thing open to the Lib-Dems in 2015 will be a pact with the Tories. I am sure that behind the scenes Labour will be delighted – any attempt by the party to appear anything but Tory-lite will have zero credibility. As Peewee said above, it’s not a sixth-form debating Society where voters sit down and ponder the byzantine reasoning for their abstention. It will be rightly seen for what it is.

  • olly, you say,
    “The only thing open to the Lib-Dems in 2015 will be a pact with the Tories.”
    In 2015 there will be nothing left of the LibDems to have a pact with.
    The only conclusion I have for this ludicrous decision to abstain, is that Nick Clegg knows he is finished, and has surreptitiously, dumped the LibDems before they officially dump him.
    Question is, what pact, promise or career move has Nick been offered post 2015, as he jumps off the ‘thawing ice floe’ which is the shrinking LiDem party.

  • John Dunn, you are talking ….. LibDems are on an upward trajectory to become the major party in 2015, Labour and Tories will be competing to be in coalition with us.
    It all depends how things are reported in the meantime, how different the press are after Leveson. If this was a unanimous decision by the Parliamentary Party to abstain, yet it is reported as ‘Clegg instructs his MPs..’ then someone is telling lies. The British public deserve better than this..

  • “LibDems are on an upward trajectory to become the major party in 2015,……..”

    WHAT ?? !! ??

  • peter13th Jun ’12 – 12:55pm…………. LibDems are on an upward trajectory to become the major party in 2015, Labour and Tories will be competing to be in coalition with us…………

    Well that’s the winner of this week’s ‘Comical Caption Competition’ sorted.

  • Actually quite pleased about the abstention – better than nothing and the Party gets some more good coverage on the subject in the Observer today. We need to broaden the front though. Hunt is not only mired with Murdoch, he is also a poorly performing minister. Witness his entirely partisan removal of the excellent (but Labour connected) Liz Forgan as Chair of the Arts Council. We read today that Peter Bazalgette is regarded as a shoo-in as her replacement. Really not good enough.

  • @Dave Page
    In the same way the opposition motion on the Gurka’s could not achieve anything in it’s own right but created an unstoppable swell in opinion that could not be ignored. Using this logic just ban opposition motions and disenfranchise those that do not vote for the government from any say in Parliament.

    Plus, this is an issue of principle, do we only vote according to those when we can win now? If it looks like the Tory right and Labour dinosaurs will scupper Lords reform will Lib Dem MP’s abstain because they cannot win. This way spineless.

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