Liblink: Chris Huhne on being despised

Chris Huhne is in apologetic-but-fighting form in the Guardian, taking on wider reasons than himself for the negative public perception of politicians.

Chris is careful to apologise for and explain without excusing his conduct, but goes on to argue –

Maybe it was coincidence, but that summer I was the only frontbencher who, with Nick Clegg’s brave backing, called for the Metropolitan police to reopen the voicemail hacking inquiry into Rupert Murdoch’s empire.

Given that I was falling in love with someone who was not my wife, you might think that it was an act of folly to court Murdoch’s hostility, but the journalist in me rebelled. Publish and be damned. If I was not in parliament to speak out when I saw an abuse, why was I there?

Is he trying too hard, too soon to recast himself from incomplete villain to flawed hero? Judge for yourself. The wider point is strongly made, but would be even stronger if made by somebody less guilty.

There is a new aggression in the tabloid press. John F Kennedy and David Lloyd George would have been toast. I suspect the only reason John Major was able to keep his affair with Edwina Currie secret is that it seemed so improbable.

And yet, judging by the reception I had on the doorstep last weekend, and many times before, not many of the public read these newspapers and take them at face value. Are we in danger of mistaking the views of a few angry and vocal voters for a national mood? Like the lion that eats the straggling wildebeest, it is hard to expect journalists not to destroy a weakened politician; even one who isn’t opposing phone hacking.

The truth is, politicians are no more venal or self-serving than people outside politics, and often far more high-minded. (Anyone who wants to make money should go into business. You lose money in politics.) But there is something intrinsic to the process of politics that kindles distrust. Politics is about brokering compromises to resolve conflict. Inevitably, everyone ends up settling for something less than they wanted or even thought was essential and principled: people are disappointed. The people who disappoint them are their politicians. It is not ultimately a recipe for trust or popularity. But how else can societies set their priorities, and make choices? Politics matters.

* Joe Otten was the candidate for Sheffield Heeley in June 2017, is a councillor in Sheffield and is Tuesday editor of Liberal Democrat Voice.

Read more by or more about or .
This entry was posted in LibLink.
Advert

28 Comments

  • “Maybe it was coincidence, but that summer I was the only frontbencher who, with Nick Clegg’s brave backing, called for the Metropolitan police to reopen the voicemail hacking inquiry into Rupert Murdoch’s empire.”

    I don’t understand at all what he’s trying to suggest there. Surely not that Vicky Pryce was secretly acting under the orders of Rupert Murdoch! And surely not that the press would have ignored the story if he hadn’t made a statement about phone hacking?

  • Nonconformistradical 9th Sep '13 - 11:41am

    “I don’t understand at all what he’s trying to suggest there. Surely not that Vicky Pryce was secretly acting under the orders of Rupert Murdoch! ”
    He’s clearly suggesting she was ‘got at’ by the murdoch team – in the article he says “The News of the World sparked the end of my marriage, but another Murdoch title, the Sunday Times, then groomed my ex-wife until she told them about the speeding points. The political editor bought dinners, sent flowers, offered breaks at smart hotels, and reassured her that she would not face any unpleasant consequences (such as prison).”

    But none of this would have happened if (a) he had been a better driver and not collected the penalty points in the first place, (b) having collected enough points for a disqualification he had just put up with the disqualification instead of going down the ‘everyone’s doing it’ route of leaning on his wife to take his points (he was disqualified subsequently anyway which adds to my feeling that he might be just another lousy driver with a cavalier attitude to the law and to the safety of others and the rest of the motoring public might be safer without him being on the road) and (c) he hadn’t had the affair and thus provided the murdoch press with ammunition.

    I think he ranks pretty low on the scale of human integrity. The only thing he did right was pleading guilty and even that was only at the last minute.

  • I would like to give him ten out of ten for actually using the internet as a communications medium and engaging with the people posting comments under his article, instead of using the internet as another place to publish things.

  • nuclear cockroach 9th Sep '13 - 11:53am

    His willingness to engage with the Guardian’s BTL brigade (aka. “the hounds of hell”) does him credit. He always was a forthright and willing to put a LD point of view across to a hostile audience. Sadly, I see no replacement.

  • “Chris, did you read the full article?”

    I didn’t, but I see now that those paragraphs you quoted relate to the coverage of his affair, and not to the speeding offence at all. I suppose that makes a bit more sense, but he must know that the press needs no ulterior motive to pursue politicians’ peccadilloes.

  • “His willingness to engage with the Guardian’s BTL brigade (aka. “the hounds of hell”) does him credit.”

    I had to laugh when I saw his response to the accusation that politicians were “warmongering, cheating, lying stealing, gutless slobs” – he pointed out that he was not a warmonger!

  • David Pollard 9th Sep '13 - 12:38pm

    It is part of our justice system that once a criminal has paid their debt to society by serving time in prison, they are allowed to get on with their lives. Why should politicians be treated any differently.

  • Compare this with the vitriol heaped against Sarah Teather.

    One resigned on a point of principle, the other resigned after lying, blaming other people, trial and imprisonment.

    Which one do you think would more upset the grassroots?

  • “I suspect the only reason John Major was able to keep his affair with Edwina Currie secret is that it seemed so improbable.”
    Or perhaps because Major was a Conservative PM whom Murdoch wanted very much to keep in office?

  • daft ha'p'orth 9th Sep '13 - 4:31pm

    @David Pollard
    “It is part of our justice system that once a criminal has paid their debt to society by serving time in prison, they are allowed to get on with their lives. ”

    With their lives, yes. With their previous occupations or posts? Very often not. Lawyers and accountants are struck off, care workers are denied clearance to work with vulnerable people. It all depends whether your crime has anything to do with your occupation.

  • @David
    I suspect what helped in the Major case was that both of the people who knew had enough of their own achievements to look for significance and meaning in them, rather than in terms of needing other people to know who they have had “relations” with, keeping a DNA-stained dress as a souvenir etc.

    @g
    Are there any Lib Dem members with weddings planned which Chris Huhne tried to stop? I think the vitriol is understandable in the case you mention (although I would mostly aim it at those who didn’t make it a whipped vote when it equality is a crucial part of what the party should be about), and is mostly not present here because Huhne is already seen as having been punished by being sent to prison and losing his job.

  • richard heathcote 9th Sep '13 - 5:41pm

    maybe to be involved with politics they should complete a CRB check. It happens in a lot of other industries

  • Richard S, it’s about impressions of character. Teather clearly agonised over decisions she made, Huhne, well, he is the kind of man willing to frame his wife, break the law and lie to the media, his colleagues, his friends and in court.

    Frankly, I am staggered that anyone would think the latter more deserving than the former.

  • @g

    No one would suggest that Sarah Teather should go to prison and Chris Huhne shouldn’t have. The difference in reaction is (I believe) because Huhne has been to prison and lost his reputation already, so the mob is reasonably satisfied. In Teather’s case we all know that post 2015 if not before she will have some kind of board-level position somewhere trading off her previous position in politics.

  • nuclear cockroach 9th Sep '13 - 7:38pm

    @Richard S

    If that is the reason that Sarah Teather has been so roundly abused by some, then it’s a pretty poor reflection on the character of the abusers, consisting apparently of jealousy at the perception that she will land a challenging and well paid job on leaving Parliament, without any consideration of what she achieved as an MP, nor what it cost her.

  • Richard S. Prison isn’t the equivalent of Confession! It’s not wiping the slate clean, it’s not a reset button. It’s intended as a punishment..

    After release it doesn’t mean your moral authority is reset or your integrity restored or that you can expect a non-judgemental return to life, public or otherwise.

    Also Huhne’s behaviour is not the legal, nor moral equivalent, of voting according to conscience on a free vote.

    He’s more of a disgrace to your party and has done more harm to politics than Teather.

    The worst you can say about her was that she was ineffectual, what’s the worst you can think about Huhne?

  • Moderator’s note:

    1. While a great deal of criticism of Chris Huhne here is appropriate in context, and some was in the original post, this does not mean that the usual requirements of politeness do not apply. Also charges against Huhne should not be embellished.

    2. While comparisons have been made with Sarah Teather, and that is quite reasonable, I don’t want this thread to become another Sarah Teather thread. The point has been well made, and further reference to Sarah is unwelcome.

  • John Broggio 9th Sep '13 - 8:50pm

    Whilst I despise what he did that gave rise to his prison term, it is refreshing to see that he does at least engage BTL. Other contributors of all (political) backgrounds on CiF and elsewhere would do well do emulate him in his approach to responding to those who comment. I’m particularly impressed to see him choosing to engage with critical voices not just the easy, supportive comments (not that he had much choice of those).

    For all that though, he doesn’t really seem to have grasped the severity of what he did or for how long he sought to evade justice.

  • “The News of the World sparked the end of my marriage”

    No. It was your adultery which did that.

  • @g – I am not a member of the Lib Dems, although I used to be and I am still a sympathiser so it is not really “my party” anymore.

  • Nonconformist Radical – Why, oh why didn’t Chris Huhne, who proclaims himself an environmentalist in an environmentalist party, and who lives in Clapham, close to Waterloo, travel to and from Brussels / Strasbourg via Eurostar and SNCF in the latter case. At that time Eurostar departed from Waterloo – which would have given him a superb service to the EP. Instead, he seems to have opted for travel via Stansted Airport! Opening him both to accusations of lack of consistency on green matters, as well as the likelihood of being caught for driving offences – as I understand it many in the party knew of his very fast driving, and he clearly had a history of accumulating speeding points!

  • TheVoice, you might want to post a similar statement over on the Teather thread, there’s quite a lot being written over there about her that is much worse than anything being said about Huhne here…

  • David Lowrence 10th Sep '13 - 8:00am

    The truth is, politicians are no more venal or self-serving than people outside politics

    Hmmm Those who are egged on by the media and moral outrage would do well to take note. But they won’t.

  • Chris Huhne accepts that he was the victim of his own fallibility. The Murdoch press exploited it via his wife and succeeded in engineering his political downfall. This has led to the current situation with no obvious alternative to Clegg. What better way to damage the Liberal Democrats?

  • “Chris Huhne accepts that he was the victim of his own fallibility.”

    Certainly he is trying to portray himself as a victim. But I wonder how many people will be taken in by that.

  • nuclear cockroach 10th Sep '13 - 11:24am

    He was ill-advised to turn up for interview by Paxman last night in a state apparently tired and emotional.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?

Advert



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarJoseph Bourke 2nd Jun - 11:50pm
    Lorenzo, time will tell with Sir Keir Starmer. He has an interview in the Guardian today https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/jun/02/keir-starmer-warns-pm-get-a-grip-or-risk-second-wave-of-coronavirus but it doesn't say much of real substance...
  • User AvatarJoseph Bourke 2nd Jun - 11:35pm
    Peter, UBI may well be coming North of the border according to the Scottish Herald https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/18471823.coronavirus---now-two-thirds-scots-support-universal-basic-income-poll-finds/ with 2/3rds of Scots and the SNP leader backing...
  • User AvatarLorenzo Cherin 2nd Jun - 11:16pm
    Joe David is correct, on Sir Keir Starmer as one to get on with often, and not compete with , things have changed,plus , as...
  • User AvatarWilliam Francis 2nd Jun - 11:16pm
    Looking back to the past enables us to build a better future. Much of our more radical policies such as the co-partneship in industry ideas...
  • User AvatarJoseph Bourke 2nd Jun - 10:49pm
    Lloyd George's powers may have been diminishing by 1940 but is was not evident in the Norway debate. He delivered one of the most powerful...
  • User AvatarAshley Thompson 2nd Jun - 10:45pm
    I'd really support a rebrand. I regret the obsession of having to have the word Liberal in the name. Rebranding by removing that word would...