Opinion: However unfair it is, Chris Huhne should step down

Another morning with the papers dominated by stories about the ever more complicated driving arrangements of Chris Huhne who is now (said to be) saying he can’t remember what happened on the evening in question.

There are accounts of his ex wife’s movements that day, maps showing who was where and allegations that he has asked others to take his points in the past. Perhaps inevitably there are claims of other extra-marital arrangements in the past.

Like everyone else apart from those directly concerned I have no idea whether any of this is true but that is no longer the point – this story is not going to go away while the press keep turning up new material and there is no sign at all that is coming to an end.

There is a tendency amongst some Lib Dems to see this as a gigantic plot got up by the right wing press/climate deniers/Clegg supporters and there is little doubt that some in all of those groups are happy to see Huhne on the ropes. But the press were just as happy to write about William Hague and his hotel room sharing arrangements- with the crucial difference that the Hague story had no ‘legs’. It also makes a difference that Huhne’s credibility was dented by his misleading election materials about his happy marriage which means that many will not give him the benefit of the doubt.

Many things in the Coalition are not going well for the Lib Dems. Perhaps our best hope in the medium term is to show that we are not just a protest Party but that we can be a competent Party of Government. However good Huhne is as Energy Secretary it will be overshadowed by the continuing coverage of his private life. He should stand down now, on the understanding that if he is cleared by the police he will be able to re-enter the Government in due course.

If he chooses not to do this then Clegg should show that he will put the interests of the Party first and fire him.

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105 Comments

  • Incredibly fair and balanced piece. Excellent work Simon.

    Some Lib Dem bloggers are preferring to hide behind tepid right-wing press conspiracy theories rather than face facts – Chris Huhne has created many, many political enemies in a very short time – who are now standing aside and letting him fall.

  • Andrew Suffield 22nd May '11 - 3:36pm

    It will end when they have chased every Lib Dem out of the government. That is what they are trying to do.

    Option 1: Let them
    Option 2: Don’t let them

    Pick one

  • To resign would be seen as an admission of guilt, which is a stupid thing to do. If there is sufficient evidence against him to bring charges then he should go, but otherwise he’s innocent until proven guilty. Plus I don’t think the public gives a monkeys about this issue, it’s just some of the Sunday papers stirring it up because they don’t like the fact that he criticised George Osborne and the fact that he’s (so far) successfully implementing a green agenda.

    Chris Huhne who is now (said to be) saying he can’t remember what happened on the evening in question.

    He’s made the truly shocking admission that he can’t give a perfect account, from memory, of his precise actions (and their timings) on a date about 8 years ago. Unbelievable. And clearly a resigning matter.

    @Andrew Suffield – got it in one.

  • “If the police investigations find that there is no evidence to support the allegations, then he would be daft to resign, particularly after he won a very important battle in cabinet recently.”

    But of course we already know there is evidence to support the allegations. Vicky Pryce has already made it clear she will go into the witness box and swear to it. The question is whether the police think that there’s enough evidence to justify a charge – and that may depend on whether records have survived of the exact timing and location of the speeding offence.

    The difficulty for Huhne is that even if that evidence hasn’t survived, and the police decide not to charge him on Pryce’s evidence alone, people will have reached their own conclusions about the plausibility of his story. A public perception that he wasn’t telling the truth, but managed to get away with it, would be incredibly damaging.

    The only satisfactory outcome for Huhne would be the production of evidence to demonstrate that he was definitely _not_ driving the car (something which, remarkably enough, he is reportedly not willing to assert for himself). Believers in Huhne’s innocence should be praying that the fullest possible details – including, ideally, a photo showing the driver of the car at the crucial moment – have survived.

    I wonder whether any of them really are praying for that…

  • John Richardson 22nd May '11 - 4:22pm

    And Harriet Harman was actually convicted of a far more serious offence she committed whilst in office and after she “strongly refuted the allegations”! She was not fired or asked to resign before she was charged, while waiting for a court date or even after conviction. In fact it was hardly mentioned in the media. I think we need to get this story into perspective. We should not be throwing out best ministers to the lions just to gratify the right-wing press and self-righteous bloggers. They’ll just be back for more anyway.

  • @Andrew Tennant @Geoffrey Payne
    Totally agree. Even if he is charged, we live in a country where you are innocent until proven guilty, he may have to take a leave of absence but only a tempoary replacement should be installed. He’s done good things and unlike some Lib Dem ministers is not afraid to point out the differences with the Conservatives. If guilty he should go, if not I hope he sit’s tight….

  • To anyone who thinks this is something to do with a hounding of Lib Dem Cabinet Ministers by either the Tories or tabloids: I want some of what you’re smoking.

    The fact is, they’re not hounding Danny or Nick because their closets aren’t full of skeletons and they have (especially Danny) an understanding of Cabinet responsibility. The fact is, if these were Tory or Labour politicians, their skeletons would likely have come out in opposition, and they never would have made it to a senior ministerial level. Does anyone thing Huhne is currently doing a good job for the Liberal Democrats? If he resigns and isn’t pushed, he might well have more say in his successor.

  • The Conservatives seem to real hate Chris Huhne.

    The Daily Mail piece on him on Saturday (yesterday) was vitriolic and quite shocking in its intensity.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1389285/Chris-Huhne-accused-lying-60-000-election-expenses.html?ito=feeds-newsxml

    The Conservatives seem to have forgotten that they don’t have an outright majority and are dependent on the LDs for support. It is quite shocking.

    I have no idea whether there is any truth in the allegations but Chris Huhne but like Catherine said innocent until proven otherwise. How many other MPs election expenses would stand up to scrutiny in the same way ?
    It may just be a smear to undermine an opponent and I agree with Catherine, that it would be a mistake to resign.

    Some of the alleged information surrounding Huhne must have been known about for years. I find it interesting that the moment Huhne raises his head above the parapet and criticised Osbourne and the Conservatives, all these issues suddenly came to light. Maybe that’s just a coincidence or that Politics can be a dirty business akin to ancient Rome.

    I’d be careful of the water jug at the cabinet tablet and recommend all involved to bring their own San Pellegrino.

    With friends like these……….. What lovely bedfellows and colleagues these Conservatives are.

  • “He’s made the truly shocking admission that he can’t give a perfect account, from memory, of his precise actions (and their timings) on a date about 8 years ago.”

    It amounts to far more than that!

    What he’s saying is that he “cannot be sure” whether he was driving the car at the time of a speeding offence for which his wife was subsequently penalised.

    The question is how that can be reconciled with his “total unlimited denial” denial of the allegation that he asked her to take the penalty for her. I don’t see how it can be, unless the answer is something casuistical – such as that she did it at her own suggestion.

    If anyone has any other suggestions, I’d be genuinely interested to hear them.

  • Tony Dawson 22nd May '11 - 5:09pm

    “To resign would be seen as an admission of guilt, which is a stupid thing to do.”

    . . . .unless you are guilty. Sometimes people resign in advance of evidence reaching criminal proof situation. It used to be called ‘doing the honorable thing’.

    The events as accepted by all, as far as I can see, are:

    Vicky Pryce has the points on her licence (and has never had any more) and WAS NOT in Essex on the day in question (when the offence was committed in Chris Huhne’s car). You cannot get points on your licence unless (a) the owner/keeper nominates you as being the driver on the day in question and (b) you send your licence up to have them put on (ie accept the guilt, regardless of circumstances). If Ms Pryce insists that she ‘took points’ for anyone else then she is insisting/admitting taking part in a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice at a rather mild level. To exist, the conspiracy requires A.N. Other to be involved.

    Chris Huhne has had several speeding offences, WAS in Essex on the day in question and ‘cannot recall whether or not he was driving’ that day. He has not, however, suggested that when he was a MEP he had a habit of getting to and from the airport at Stansted other than by driving himself.

    All the above is purely circumstantial. I think Chris Huhne has been an excellent Secretary of State. I hope this does not colour my view of how he needs to behave in the present circumstances.

  • @John Richardson
    “Harriet Harman was actually convicted of a far more serious offence she committed whilst in office ”

    Not sure about that, Huhne could actually face imprisonment if he did pervert the course of justice. But at this point in time he’s innocent, will remain so until it is proven in a court and needs to sit tight..

  • Conservative 22nd May '11 - 5:49pm

    It is funny that we Conservatives are always blamed for these stories when it is Chris Huhne’s wife (whom he betrayed) who has been pushing this – it seems sometimes that nothing ever is a lib dem’s fault and either the public are too stupid to vote for AV, the No campaign was frightful, Vince was caught b a sneak jounalist and his views were fine, Chris is being hounded by nasty right wing press (not ex-lib dem cllrs as in his election expenses investigation), the opinion polls are lies and wrong, tuition fees wasn’t a pledge and it was unreasonable of the public to expect you to vote against the policy, VAT wasn’t a warning YOU gave in opposition, shared cabinet responsibility is a figment of the imagination and policies that you signed and voted for in previous weeks are actually completely wrong and represent more right wing machinations.

    Surely there are some scruples in this party and Chris Huhne should resign but for the fact that he is bringing a senior political position into disrepute?

  • I’m astonished that some Lib Dems don’t think that an MP covering up an offence by persuading someone else to take the blame isn’t serious! It’s a criminal act that carries a prison sentence as it represents a deliberate attempt to undermine the justice system.

    Whatever next, justifying the embezzlement of £40,000 from the taxpayer?

  • I actually agree with @Conservative.

    Seems as if nothing is ever the fault of the LDs.

    Except in this thread, it isn’t the fault of Labour Trolls, but the press who are out to get Huhne, huh?

  • @ Conservative. Surely there are some scruples in this party and Chris Huhne should resign but for the fact that he is bringing a senior political position into disrepute?

    Well, you would say that wouldn’t you ? You wouldn’t say that about one of your own. On election expenses in particular, Selective focus, I think. Why is it being picked up now and not years ago ? I am not surprised that a Conservative is putting the boot in. Another tricky Liberal Democrat out of the way, onwards and forwards to Conservative political domination of this country by hook or by crook.

    Regarding Chris Huhne, he is innocent until proven otherwise and Conservatives should lay off him.

  • Stephen Donnelly 22nd May '11 - 6:24pm

    I just wonder, over the last 12 months how many people have actually been prosecuted because they asked someone to take their penalty points ? How many of those on a first offence have been sent to Jail ?

    If this had been a Labour or Tory minister would it have been front page news ? If it has not been for the press coverage would it even have been investigated ?

  • “If this had been a Labour or Tory minister would it have been front page news ?”

    The degree of paranoia over this really is quite astonishing. Do people in the party really feel “they’re all out to get us” now? And – as ‘Conservative’ asks – is there no one with enough objectivity to appreciate how many of the party’s calamities have been self-inflicted?

  • @Stephen Donnelly
    I saw this on my local BBC news website earlier in the week. Not quite the same as CH is accused of but it was lying to avoid penalty points so I wouldn’t assume it is not taken seriously. That said he could be accused of any number of offences that could incur jail time but unless found guilty he remains innocent.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-gloucestershire-13467155

  • Innocent until proved guilty. This should be the rule. And of course Chris Huhne should not budge until and if guilt is proved.
    It is very unedifying to see the right wing press going for us whenever possible without any sense of fairness or restraint on speculation.
    The Spectator, Mail, and Private Eye are obvious examples, but I have been especially disgusted by Paul Staines of the Guido Fawkes blog. This ex- hedgefunder has moved on from exploiting financial markets to destroying reputations..
    It is clear from the tone and the malice that he really enjoys breaking people. He already has “Guilty” written across his David Laws photo announcing that a police investigation may be about to start.

    This all makes me glad to be a Libdem; the sheer nastiness of the tory right, or the union control freakery of the labour left are both impossible alternatives however low we go in the polls..

  • Andrew Suffield 22nd May '11 - 7:25pm

    I’m astonished that some Lib Dems don’t think that an MP covering up an offence by persuading someone else to take the blame isn’t serious!

    Of course it’s serious, if it really happened. In the event that some actual evidence appears, his political career is over.

    But the Tory press has been pushing rumours hard. Why would they print rumours if there were actual facts to print? This is not the behaviour of a newspaper that’s got hold of a true story.

    He’s made the truly shocking admission that he can’t give a perfect account, from memory, of his precise actions (and their timings) on a date about 8 years ago.

    ‘cannot recall whether or not he was driving’ that day

    Sigh. He never said that. It’s an out-of-context quote printed in the Telegraph, of a comment made by one of his staff members. Huhne’s actual statement was that it absolutely did not happen, with no uncertainty.

    (He has also come right out and accused the Telegraph of misrepresenting his statements, which is a violation of the PCC code – so far, there’s more evidence of wrongdoing by the Telegraph than by Huhne)

  • “Sigh. He never said that. It’s an out-of-context quote printed in the Telegraph, of a comment made by one of his staff members.”

    “Sigh” … “Sigh” … “Sigh”

    This is exactly what I mean about self-inflicted injuries. If Huhne is going to get his “friends” and “staff members” to go around briefing journalists about what a horrible woman his wife is and so on (and actually it was the Sunday Times that printed that quotation, not the Telegraph), and if they’re stupid enough to say he can’t remember whether he was driving the car that day, what earthly right does he have to complain when the story appears?

    But no, everything is always somebody else’s fault – or preferably the result of a devilish conspiracy between all the people who are “out to get us” …

  • Would Ms Pryce also be open to prosecution for accepting penalty points?

  • I must say Andrew Suffield’s views seem to have changed radically since last year, when he defended the suspension of the Mayor of Camden, who was then the subject of an investigation by benefit inspectors, but who had not been charged:
    “Suspended pending the outcome of the investigation” is a paranoid-but-reasonable approach to take with politicians.
    https://www.libdemvoice.org/liberal-democrat-mayor-suspended-over-benefits-investigation-17714.html#comment-106175

    I look forward to an explanation of when an investigation is not an investigation …

  • @johng. That’s really what I don’t understand about all this. If Huhne named her, and she then named herself, she has committed PCoJ as has CH, and they have both committed conspiracy. A woman scorned, and all that; but to risk a prison sentence to get back at him just doesn’t stack up. It’s not as if she’s an idiot. Further, she allegedly consulted a friendly judge in the early stages. The judge will have told her not to do it, as it’s PcOJ and conspiracy and will attract a prison sentence if caught.
    It has also been alleged that CH ‘filled in her form, without her knowledge’. But, CH would have had to fill in three forms, and send of her driving licence; get it endorsed, and secrete it again, all without her knowing. So that doesn’t stack up either.

  • Andrew Suffield 22nd May '11 - 8:45pm

    self-pity – as seen in the first part of the title

    I’m pretty sure that the title was written by SImon McGrath, not Chris Huhne. What exactly do you think “self-pity” means?

  • Andrew Suffield 22nd May '11 - 8:46pm

    Would Ms Pryce also be open to prosecution for accepting penalty points?

    If one person takes penalty points in the place of another who was actually driving, both have committed exactly the same crime.

  • Simon McGrath 22nd May '11 - 9:10pm

    @ various – I don’t think anyone should be commenting on the likelihood of the allegations being true. This is not the issue. The issue is that this story continues to run, there seems no end to the allegations and the right thing for him to do is to resign so he can sort it all out.

  • Huhne specifically said he had been cleared, and as hard evidence has emerged, changed his story – the current version being he can’t remember what he did that night. Well how could he say he had been cleared if by his own admission he couldn’t remember?

    We cannot take him at his word anymore – what he says now may contradict what he says tomorrow. So what’s the point of listening to him?

  • Is there not a better way to combat bullying than to run away crying or do exactly as the bullies want?

    Agree completely…and I believe @Sunny H suggested just such a better way a couple of comments above 🙂

  • “Is there not a better way to combat bullying than to run away crying or do exactly as the bullies want?”

    So the party is a victim of “bullying” now? Oh dear, oh dear.

  • Rule #1 Don’t let the press rule, cos lets face it no-one voted for them!

  • Guido Fawkes
    In reality it is Vicky not Tories who will have done for him.

    ———————————————–

    Maybe,some rumours have been known for a quite a while, maybe even many years; I still ask the question, why now and why is the Conservative press and some others taking the case up so strongly ? It feels and looks like a politically motivated attack. If only they delved so deeply amongst their own coterie of MPs.

    I do agree with the sentiments here by many that Chris Huhne needs to stay in place until the gossip hurled around is proved to be anything more substantial than just gossip. Enough of trial by the Conservative media. If Chris Huhne resigned it would be shown to be a media tactic that can work against LD, that opposes Osbourne or the Conservative line. People need to rally against this specific tactic.

  • It’s outrageous for Lib Dems to call for Chris Huhne to resign over this. He has done nothing wrong. He hasn’t been convicted of a crime. He hasn’t been charged. He hasn’t been arrested. He isn’t a suspect. The police are following up a complaint – that’s their job.

    We have to grow up and get used to this kind of thing. The Lib Dems are under scrutiny now. It’s this or irrelevance – take your pick. Labour and the Tories have had to put up with this kind of thing for years. If we buckle under pressure from a bad headline – particularly one about an eight-year old motoring offence, of all things – then all we’re doing is saying to the country that we’re not ready for government.

  • “Innocent until proven” guilty, for the umpteenth time, refers to an individual having the right to mount a defence… not for the discussion of any potential guilt to be declawed off-limits

    Er, no, it means what it sounds like – until there is enough evidence to prove that someone is guilty, they are (or should be) treated as innocent. Presumption of innocence means that the burden of proof is on the accuser not the person being accused. If it was just the ‘right to mount a defence’ we’d have a Medieval justice system…

    I haven’t seen anyone saying that the discussion of potential guilt should be off-limits, but certainly any consequences of potential guilt should be off-limits until there is proof of guilt.

    I rarely find myself quoting William Hague, but as he said in an interview today if ministers resigned every time there were rumours or allegations circulating about them, there’d be a constant revolving cabinet door.

  • “Er, no, it means what it sounds like – until there is enough evidence to prove that someone is guilty, they are (or should be) treated as innocent.”

    But it’s extremely common for people to relinquish their duties (or to be suspended) while they are under investigation. As I pointed out earlier, Andrew Suffield has supported the suspension of people under investigation in the past.

    If it were simply a question of the presumption of innocence, then that would persist right up until a verdict was reached. But I’ve seen very few people suggesting that Chris Huhne should remain in office if he is actually charged.

    There seems to be a very disturbing “disconnect” from reality in this discussion. However it turns out, this isn’t a trivial matter. It isn’t just a bit of tabloid tittle-tattle. Either Chris Huhne lied to the police about a criminal offence in 2003, or else Vicky Pryce is lying to them about one now. If the evidence exists to determine which of them is telling the truth, then the consequences for the other are going to be serious.

  • Old Codger Chris 22nd May '11 - 10:46pm

    Of course Huhne should not resign – unless he is guilty.

    It’s David Laws who should resign. The fact that his £40k scam of taxpayers money was – apparantly – not a crime, is irrelevant.

  • It is a serious offence, the punishment varies. This guy got jailed (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-491428/Lying-BMW-chief-jailed-making-son-19-blame-speeding.html), and Teddy Sheringham got only a caution, but that was considered lenient.

    I get the impession Huhne is trying to give sophisticated answers. I’m not sure how they’ll stand up to polie questioning. Hopefully he is innocent.

  • I completely get the innocent until proven guilty thing. That’s a perfectly reasonable stance to take.

    But I have a question.

    If he does continue to claim his innocence and emphatically deny the allegations, but then prove beyond a doubt to have been lying, will that harm the Liberal Democrats?

    It seems to me that the flipside to the ‘innocent until proven guilty’ stance is that if he is, in fact, guilty, then it makes him and his advisers and associates look very bad indeed if he denies the allegations right up until they are proven.

    I have no access to any information beyond what’s in the press, but I’m starting to get the sense that he knows he’s guilty and that he’s hoping that conclusive evidence won’t be found.

    If that is so, I think it’s a reasonable gamble for him, given that if he’s proven guilty his career is over now regardless of whether he volunteers his guilt, but for the reputation of the party it would be a much more serious gamble.

    I could be entirely wrong, and maybe he is innocent, but I’m interested to know at what point if at all the party would take a view that his stance is dangerous for them.

  • “He’s done nothing wrong. He hasn’t been convicted of a crime. He hasn’t been charged. He hasn’t been arrested. He isn’t a suspect. ”

    The first of these statements has no dependent relationship at all to the other four. Only Chris Huhne knows whether he has (a) done anything wrong and/or (b) IS LIKELY TO BE THOUGHT TO HAVE SO DONE BY THE PUBLIC. You and i do not and it as silly to raise these ‘luvvie’ defences as it is to buy in to the ‘its in the tabloids so it must be true’ attacks.

  • It’s depressing how tribal some of these Lib Dem posters are.

    There is a strong body of evidence to suggest that Huhne has attempted to pervert the course of justice. That’s fraud, an imprisonable offence.

    Quite how it’s the Conservatives’ fault is beyond me. It’s Huhne’s betrayed wife that is driving this (pardon the pun) and the Labour Party are rather excited by it too.

    Whatever the Tories may or may not do – or have done – Chris Huhne is the author of his own demise, as is David Laws, and these are Lib Dems, and you guys should be ashamed. And don’t give me all this stuff about other politicians; just because there are other bad eggs doesn’t make yours any less poisonous!

  • Don’t worry yourself too much about it. He’s probably guilty (certainly looked it in that live denial) but it’s hardly the crime of the century, and he’s acting as lightning conductor taking media heat off Clegg at the moment, which might be a good thing. In fact guess Clegg armtwisted him into the live interview in revenge for Calamity Clegg dossier etc.

  • Well I imagine a lot of Lib Dems will be happy to see him go – he hardly makes friends easily and often bends the truth – anyone remember him smearing Nick Clegg

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PjLfTMD_zTw

    Maybe if Lib Dems did what the SNP did and clear out the old guard hacks like Huhne the party will be all the better for it.

  • “Perhaps our best hope in the medium term is to show that we are not just a protest Party but that we can be a competent Party of Government.”

    This would be an excellent idea if indeed the Liberal Democrats could be a “competent Party of Government.” However, since our long-held suspicions that you were always and only just a protest party have now been shown to be true beyond all doubt, there is a slight problem with this plan.

    Plan B: utter oblivion. Roll on the next election.

  • It is fascinating psychology.

    The elephant in the room: the Tories really don’t take Huhne very seriously. If someone is gunning for Huhne it is probably Clegg’s faction. The internal fights are always nastier. You all seem far happier to fantasize about some evil Tory conspiacy.

    Can anyone point me to a direct on-the-record quote from Huhne clearly denying it? He can’t remember; he claims that the allegations are old, he says they are “inaccurate”. Mostly off the record or through assistants. He has conspicuously failed to make a clear on-the-record statementdidnt do it thast I can find.

    If he did make false statements about who was driving he has commited a serious offence for which people regularly go to prison. The coverr up is always what gets them, not the original error.

    Apparently Vicky Pryce said that Huhne declared she was driving without telling her first. Which leaves her either accepting them or forcing the police to investigate her husband for a serious crime. I think a judge may appreciate the duress involved.

    Huhne seems smart enough not to dig himself in deeper even though it is weekening his own defence. Which makes the loyal blindless displayed here so sweet and sad…

    He doen’t deserve you guys…

  • I agree with the implication of Bouvs’ post that his “ineptness” and lack of clarity in dealing with this issue is an attempt not to say anything which can unambiguously be shown to be untrue at a later stage.

    There is nothing wrong Joe Public doing this. Indeed if a newspaper puts allegations to Joe Public, JP is entitled to say nothing at all or say something totally untrue – we’re accountable to the law not the media. However, Huhne is a cabinet minister with an important public job. He has a responsibility to issue a clear and unambiguous denial to public allegations if he is innocent. It can’t be too hard for him to know if he’s guilty or not. If I had wrongly put someone points on someone else’s licence I would remember, even if it had happened in 2003. I’m sure that goes for just everybody on this forum. Appealing to the concept of “innocent until proven guilty” only goes so far. He’s a cabinet minister facing allegations of breaking the law – he should deny it unambiguously or step down. By his current course of action he’s putting his own ambitions ahead of the government (I rather like my cabinet ministers not to be distracted in their jobs) and his party. He’s also behaving foolishly since he’ll almost certainly be forced to step down eventually – this story has legs and will run.

  • gramsci's eyes 23rd May '11 - 9:12am

    If the story has traction then he is toast because it would be “perverting the course of justice” and a narrative of us & them in the press. . It does seem in this case that the press have something to get their teeth into and chase up- Farage, appointments etc They won’t let this one go.

    If that does come to pass, then the question is the damage (by hanging on) done to the lib dems.

    There are certain brands in politics that should be quietly dumped. Selling the “new politics” is a waste of time on the doorstep, as much as selling the “big society” or the labour troops under Brown saying “hello, I am here to unlock your potential”.

  • Obviously I cannot comment on this particular case, but if a politician is found to have lied it usually follows the same pattern.

    First – Denial – Deny everything and hope it will go away.

    Second –Denial with innocence – deny everything, welcome enquiries whilst secretly trying to shut up anyone who may spill the beans ( Warning- Make sure you are not recorded)

    Third – Amnesia – As the evidence builds, claim you cannot remember, This is a good legal defence, but you need to be careful that people don’t start to think, “He must have been really pissed if he can’t remember.

    Fourth – Conspiracy – Claim that everybody is out to get you, People love conspiracies.

    Fifth – Privacy – If you really can’t get away with it, as a last resort say that you are a closet speeder, that your parents did not know that you go out in your car cruising for thrills, and that you lied to protect them. This may gain some public sympathy.

    Sixth – The lovable rogue – Quickly arrange for some prostitutes to say you run Bunga Bunga parties and you spend so much time seducing young girls you need to speed. This will create a “lovable rogue” image and so many allegations it would take years for any of them to come to court.

  • Speaking from a Conservative viewpoint, Huhne should remain and just carry on piling up the damage on the Lib Dems image. This is not a single allegation with no evidence. We have the Lib Dem wife providing “facts”.

    Which is why the author of this article is giving sound advice.

    But please ignore it.

  • Simon, you say that ‘Like everyone else apart from those directly concerned I have no idea whether any of this is true’ and that is a good start, but to say that that is ‘no longer the point’ is not correct. The truth or not of allegations is critical in deciding whether or not someone stands down, and the self-perpetuation of the story by one particular blog [and some newspapers who borrow stories from it] should not be sufficient to damn anyone.

    I think for once we should get a back-bone and stick with it; not least because I would love to see Guido’s targeting/gun-sight symbol fail, just once 🙂

  • Er, no, it means what it sounds like – until there is enough evidence to prove that someone is guilty, they are (or should be) treated as innocent. Presumption of innocence means that the burden of proof is on the accuser not the person being accused. If it was just the ‘right to mount a defence’ we’d have a Medieval justice system…

    For the umpteenth plus one time, it is not a foil to shut-down any discussion of the opposing case. It does not mean “innocent with no possibility of guilt”, which is the direction bloggers who shout it out are generally taking discussion.

    Blurting it out as you have done is simply a refusal to analysis the situation.

    As I suggested above, if you were accused of gross misconduct in your job, you’d expect a suspension or restriction of duties. But, what you say?, it’s “innocent until proven guilty”.

    But, if you must seek tortuously literal definitions, this situation is effectively an employment dispute. It’s Huhne’s position as a cabinet minister which is the main issue. He’s not being threatened with suspension of habeas corpus and prolonged incarceration without charge or trial.

    ~alec

  • The simple fact is – the public have seen how MPs have got away with scandal after scandal and are losing (or have lost) faith in every last one of them. The libdems claimed before the election that they were clean and shiny which proved in the main to be true. However since coming into the coilition they have been somewhat dulled. The majority of the population now see Chris in his Green guise as a fool. The rest of the world (see Canada) is waking up to the Climate Change fiasco and the public are wondering how long it is going to take our government to do the same. Chris came out and committed the UK to spending ridiculous sums of money on schemes which will do nothing to secure our energy supply (which we cannot afford) and looks incompetant. We saw how the Brown temper tantrums played out to the public and now we have a libdem ‘statesman’ doing the same.
    Finally we see Laws get away with a holiday from work in punishment for what the public knows to be a crock. Chris is believed to have been caught by a speed camera (which in an earlier job he made money out of) and in their hearts they believe he has broken the law.
    His position is untenable if the LibDems want to be seen as a ‘clean’ party. In all honesty Laws should have resigned and fought a by election to ensure he had the support of his constituents – which I believe he does ! But once you allow dirt to stick – it sticks ! And the party will get the smelly end of the stick if they are seen to be dirty !
    Remember – politicains are seen by the public as dirty self serving scumbags. The only way to change this is to wash out the stains. And at the moment the public are in no mood to forgive even the slightest misdeed !
    Now it is fine to be all supportive of the leadership but looking at the reality of the situation is what you need in life.

    Supporting idiological ideas with which the public has lost faith (Climate change, the EU, banking bailouts) is foolish when the people think that the governemnt is there to look after the people and do ther bidding rather than jump on every bandwagon and trample over the desires of the public in order to conform to their own idiological ideas. You HAVE to serve the people or you will not serve anyone except yourself – which is exactly why they want Chris to resign. They see him has self serving !

  • “As I suggested above, if you were accused of gross misconduct in your job, you’d expect a suspension or restriction of duties. But, what you say?, it’s “innocent until proven guilty”.”

    And the party itself has often suspended people pending investigation, even when there has been no charge. And at least one of the people now saying Huhne should carry on regardless has argued previously that “suspension pending investigation” is a reasonable approach.

  • Disco Biscuit 23rd May '11 - 1:26pm

    Except of course that Clegg is unable to fire any ministers; even if Clegg does recommend Liberal Democrat ministers, Government positions are in the gift of the Prime Minister – and he’s showing no signs of wanting a reshuffle in the forseeable future.
    Unless he walks the plank of his own accord, the Lib Dems are lumbered with him.

  • Also, well done on the Times quote Simon. It is precisely your article which has created a whole new headline and a new perpetuation of the story today. Given your occasionally over-zealous support of Clegg (which I sometimes agree with, often don’t), this article looks like an attempt to stick a knife in Huhne over nothing but an allegation, and you do so apparently regardless of ‘however good Huhne is as Energy Secretary’. Can I suggest we leave him alone for the moment rather than sounding like Ed Miliband and/or The Times and calling for resignations just because someone is accused of something?

  • To the “innocent until proven guilty” folk..
    If you were in opposition and if it was a government minister of another party who it was alleged by a named party
    and with strong cirumstantial evidence, would you want them to resign ?
    Or to put it another way, how much of your position is informed by tribal politics and loyalty to one’s own and how much to the principles of justice ?

    As has been repeatedly pointed out, “innocent until proven guilty” does not imply business as usual when one is in a position of responsibility.

  • Probably the most sensible and realistic piece I’ve read on this website for about a year.

  • Right-wing, Clegg-loving blogger in attack on Clegg’s enemy shocker.

    So, Simon McGrath, you were calling for Laws to be reinstated to the cabinet (just after he had been found guilty), yet you want Huhne out, despite the fact he hasn’t been found guilty of anything yet. Are you and agent of the tory party, secretly working on the destruction of the Lib Dems from within? The electorate will massacre the Lib Dems if Laws returns and Huhne is forced out.

    I was banned from Simon McGrath’s blog for pointing out that Laws is a dishonest man, yet Simon calls for Huhne to go. Hypocrite.

  • Dave M: If you were in opposition and if it was a government minister of another party who it was alleged by a named party and with strong cirumstantial evidence, would you want them to resign? No, I would not – I would expect them, if police investigations show anything, to be charged, and if charged, resign to fight their corner.

    Even the title of this work seems a little absurd: ‘However unfair it is, Chris Huhne should step down.’ However unfair? Whatever the truth may be? Regardless of whether the allegations are well founded?

    I would love David Laws to return to the cabinet, but this isn’t the way to go about it.

  • Clearly one of them is lying. If Chris Huhne was caught speeding and got his wife to take the points then he faces jail and she might too. if she is seeking revenge and he is actually innocent, then her reputation is in ruins. The press has a right to put on the pressure since one of them is lying, and if it happens to be the cabinet minister, the story is in the public interest. Furthermore, if he is guilty, the denials of the last few weeks make matters much worse in my view.

    I don’t see why almost everyone commenting on this site is blaming the conservatives. It does not do the lib dem image any good. What has this mess got to do with the Tories?

  • Steve Wilson 23rd May '11 - 5:46pm

    If Mr Huhne is found to be guilty, I presume there will be few complaints if he gets dealt with quite harshly, seeing as he has completely denied the offence…?

  • Simon McGrath 23rd May '11 - 7:35pm

    @Sarah , I haven’t banned you from my facebook page. I have checked the (small) list of people banned and you are not on it. I don’t thi k I did call for laws to be reinstated. I said I thought he should fight a by election which would mean he could be reinstated.

    @Henry nice try . But the story would have run anyway although possibly with a differen headline

  • I read the Times article today, and it was very selective and completely failed to reflect the supportive comments. I guess that should be no surprise.

    This whole Chris Huhne episode is an completely unedifying spectacle. I understand that Chris Huhne is not popular in all quarters (least of all with his ex wife), and there may be something in the gossip. I find it quite shocking the sight of the apparent willingness of some Liberal Democrats willing to combine with the Conservatives and Conservative media to attack him.

    This willingness seems to be connected with Chris Huhne speaking out in Cabinet against Osbourne and those heavily in favour of the coalition seem to be taking the opportunity to go for him.

    Perhaps this is a reflection of what is going on in the Liberal Democrats as a whole. The party is being dragged rightwards and the leaders feel more at home with the Conservatives than they do with their own party members. If the natural inclinations of the members are raised regarding a true separate Liberal identity the Coalitionistas really don’t seem to want this to happen.

    It is noticeable that David Laws get a front page article advising the Liberal Democrats not to criticise the Conservatives. The leaders of the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives can’t wait to get him back. I know that David Laws is a smart and capable man, but there is no piloring in the press for him.

    It may still be the case that Chris Huhne will be found not to have broken the rules but be forced out of his ministerial spot while David Laws, who did make some clear mistakes replaces him.

    What an unpleasant business coalition cabinet politics seems to be. Maybe that is all politics at a high level whatever the political complexion.

  • Andrew Suffield 23rd May '11 - 11:52pm

    it is not a foil to shut-down any discussion of the opposing case

    The only people who are trying to shut down discussion are the ones trying to force Huhne to resign without fighting his corner.

    I don’t see any problem with the Telegraph printing rubbish, per se. The cure to bad speech is more speech – people pointing out that it’s rubbish. The Tories are free to claim Huhne broke the law, and he’s free to point out that they’re massively wealthy tax-evaders. None of this is bad.

    None of it is any reason to resign, either.

  • @Jack Timms – nice try but this is far from “gossip” – it is a specific and serious allegation of illegality with supporting circumstantial evidence to which Huhne has refused to give a clear and unambiguous denial.

    @Andrew Suffield – another nice try. However, tax avoidance is another issue altogether. The “cure” for the Huhne affair is not to throw around other allegations, rather it is for Huhne to make a specific and unambiguous denial of the allegation against him.

  • @Andrew
    Regarding item (11) on the list, numbered, presumably, for effect.

    Nowhere have I see Chris Huhne deny the allegations ? He is sticking to a carefully worded formula about them being “inaccurate”. This is not the same thing as saying “I have never put anyone points on anyone else’s licence”.

    Why should a cabinet minister who refuses to deny allegations of illegality in the face of specific allegations remain in the place ?

  • Andrew – it has been widely reported that he has allegedly asked others to take his points. Eg http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1384707/Chris-Huhne-asked-speeding-points-Ex-wife-Climate-Change-Secretary-claims-pressurised-people.html .
    ‘I am aware that he pressurised people to take his driving licence penalty points.’ according to Ms Pryce.
    If you missed this, you could have missed other things. Perhaps this should lead you to question your assumptions.

    Regarding the “shown to be false”, my question is relevant even though you ignored it If I was accused of something and I knew that these allegations were already shown be false I would immediately give details of the investigation which cleared me. Wouldn’t you ? Why doesn’t Huhne ?

  • @Andrew
    The source is irrelevant. The point was to address the issue of what it is he is denying :putting points on his wife’s licence and/or pressurising others to take points. Both are widely reported. Whether they are credible is up to the police to decide and not up to you or me. The issue is Huhne’s lack of clarity and your interpretation of the denial despite you not being aware of the breadth of the allegations which have been made. What is wrong with him just saying : “Nobody has ever taken driving points which were given to me, nor have I ever asked anyone to do this”. Its easy.

    I note you still don’t address the relevant question of why, if the allegations “have been shown to be false”, Huhne simply doesn’t refer to the investigation which cleared him. This is surely the sensible thing to do. Wouldn’t you do this ? I certainly would Why doesn’t he ? This is the third time you’ve avoided addressing a simple question which could clear up this whole business . If you ever want a second career perhaps you could become Huhne’s press agent. :).

  • Andrew – if you’re going to debate I suggest you engage with the points in a rational way, as many of us are trying to do, rather than squirming. A chain of argument may stretch over several posts. Its a waste of everyone’s time if you keep on trying to change the argument because it strays into uncomfortable territory for you.

    If you really wish to debate then :

    (1) Acquaint yourself with the breadth of the allegations and ask yourself what it is that Huhne has denied. To you its Huhne’s denial is clear yet it turns out that you weren’t even aware of the different allegations** The credibility of the source is irrelevant for the purposes of this argument. The issue is Huhne’s denial – what is he denying ? Whilst you’re addressing this you may wish to explain what “inaccurate” means. Politicos choose their words carefully. “Inaccurate” can mean that some of what is alleged is untrue but that other aspects hit the target. Why not just say “I have never got anyone else to take my points, nor have I ever sought to do this ?”.

    (2) Address the reasonable question I raised three times which you repeatedly ignore. Why would Huhne not refer to the details of the previous inquiry which apparently showed the allegations (whatever they are) to be false ? In his situation, I would do this, as I’m sure most people would if they were innocent. As it is, nobody seems to know anything about this. Ignoring questions doesn’t make them go away (Huhne’s experience should teach us that).

    ** Be careful about telling other people to “pay attention” to this issue :).

  • Kevin Colwill 25th May '11 - 10:29pm

    The burden of proof should be on his accusers but we know the reality is that Huhne has to prove he is innocent. Not an easy job when he has already shown a certain economy of actuality, not least in in describing his happy marriage.

    He may end up going for the same reason Angus Deayton was forced to leave “Have I Got News For You” i.e. he just wasn’t personally popular enough to weather the storm.

  • The Mail reports that the decision on whether to charge Chris Huhne will have to go to the Director of Public Prosecutions. Its comment suggests that the issue may not be resolved for weeks yet – it says Huhne’s file is expected to be sent to the CPS “within a month.” The report also says that it’s believed he was questioned under caution on Tuesday.
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1390982/Decision-Huhne-face-trial-hands-DPP.html

  • “Police investigating allegations that the cabinet minister Chris Huhne dodged punishment for speeding have made contact with prosecutors, it was disclosed on Thursday.
    The Crown Prosecution Service said Essex police had “opened channels” over the energy secretary’s case.
    No evidence files have yet been submitted and charging advice has not been offered, a spokesman said.”
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/may/26/chris-huhne-police-contact-cps

  • After all that …

    “Police had expected her [Vicky Pryce] to tell them that she was made to take points on his behalf after he was allegedly caught speeding in Essex on March 12, 2003.
    But a police source told The Daily Telegraph that she refused to repeat the allegations in interview. One explanation for Miss Pryce’s reticence is that, by admitting her part in the offence to officers, she would be incriminating herself and could be charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.”
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/8540079/Chris-Huhnes-ex-wife-refuses-to-tell-police-whether-she-took-speeding-points-on-his-behalf..html

  • So, surprise surprise, there is no actual evidence to the main allegation and the election expenses attempt seems to have little substance. What’s exposed is the alliance between the right wing elements in the Liberal Democrats and the Conservative politicians and Conservative media to get rid of a potential internal opponent to the Conservative / right wing Liberal Democrats.

    I am glad to see that a lot of decent people didn’t fall for the ruse. I wonder if the Conservative media will reflect the lack of evidence in the accusation and the support for Chris Huhne on LDV to stay in place in their next article ?

  • @Jack Timms

    Suprise surprise, you shouldn’t selectively take information from the media and assume it is gospel. Many reputable outlets are reporting that the case will be sent to the CPS imminently and that Mrs Huhne is cooperating with the police.

    Also, there is a disquieting report that Huhne has refused to answer questions at all. If true, this is disgraceful. What is wrong with a firm unambiguous denial ? After all, he said the allegations had been “shown to be untrue”. Why doesn’t he just tell us where and when the earlier investigation took place.

    I can’t understand why he is being obscure. Were I an innocent party being unfairly accused you can bet I’d shout if from the roof tops.

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