The Independent On Sunday: Chris Huhne is a tenacious fighter for an important cause

Yesterday’s Independent on Sunday carried an editorial devoted to the energy secretary, Chris Huhne. While acknowledging that Huhne has had some personal difficulties over the past few weeks, the newspaper praises him for the (often unnoticed) work he has been doing to realise this government’s ambition to be the greenest ever. And, considering he’s only been in place for just over a year, his achievements to date are already commendable.

Here’s an extract from the piece:

In all this speculation about whether Mr Huhne would keep his job, however, one consideration has been almost totally overlooked. How well has he performed in this post, so crucial to the coalition’s claim to be the “greenest government ever”, over the past year?

This is a pertinent question because at the very time that he has been fighting off what looks like an attempt by his estranged wife to bring him down, he has won two important victories in Cabinet committees.

Earlier this month, he persuaded the Prime Minister to commit the Government to the demanding target of cutting Britain’s output of greenhouse gases by 50 per cent by 2025. Then he persuaded the Deputy Prime Minister that the Green Investment Bank, which was announced last week, would be enshrined in law and be allowed to borrow, free of Treasury control.

Both decisions were fiercely resisted by George Osborne, the Chancellor, and Mr Huhne’s fellow Liberal Democrat, Vince Cable, the Business Secretary.

On cutting greenhouse gases, Mr Osborne and Mr Cable argued that there was no point in simply forcing energy-intensive industries to leave the country. Given the small contribution to global warming made by Britain, the main value of cuts on one country is as an example to others, which would be lost if other countries think that the price is too high.

John Cridland, the director-general of the CBI, expressed the dilemma well last week: “If we’re one step ahead we can inspire, but if we’re three steps ahead we’re in trouble.” Yet the industries that will lose out in the short term are always going to complain the loudest, to resist any step forward, and to seek to use the Business Department to defend their interests in Whitehall. Against such vested interests, a green government needs an advocate who can exert a countervailing force. Mr Huhne passes that test.

Since David Miliband first pressed for the prioritisation of climate change at Cabinet level, the green argument has been twofold. First, that Britain can set an example. Second, that the low-carbon economy is a business opportunity for this country.

That is the significance of Mr Huhne’s second victory. An independent Green Investment Bank is important to the credibility of the claim that a greener economy can be a route to greater prosperity. New low-carbon technologies require investment and there is a role for the public sector in minimising market failure in this field. As ever, the Treasury is bound to resist public bodies being given the power to borrow on the open market, just as it resisted the same powers being granted to foundation hospitals. But without the power to use its £3bn budget as a way of levering in private money, the Green Investment Bank would simply be another feeble quango.

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11 Comments

  • These crucially important victories underscore exactly why we need Chris Huhne to stay in post.

  • To avoid jail?

    Sorry people are going to hate me for that joke. The Green Investment Bank is a fantastic idea, providing the government allows it to fail if the initial £3 billion isn’t enough to succeed. We don’t want anymore bank bailouts, there were too many the first time.

  • Climate Change MUST be true. Just think of what it would do to our credibility if were not true. Even if it were seen to be not true, just think of climate change as a gathering point for the world to unite with a common goal against a common enemy of wealth, privilege and waste. Keep up the fight for peace and love. Save the planet.

  • This article, and nearly ever other article about Huhne on here, sounds a bit Pravda-esque.

  • libertarian 31st May '11 - 5:47pm

    Oh for chrisakes wake up and join the real world, Green energy currently killing 3.7 real jobs for every pretend one created. Windmills for crying out loud. All of that work undone and Co2 emmissions are now at their highest levels for years ( that’s volcanoes for you, they just wilfully will not enter into the spirit of things).

    No wonder the public don’t take you seriously

  • Wow, I found Huhne’s latest comments on the election funding issue amusing:
    : “I have full confidence that my agent has declared my election expenses correctly ..”

    Were I his agent who had probably worked tirelessly to get Huhne to Parliament I think I’d less than happy with
    Huhne distancing himself from this and dumping it onto the agent regardless of whether or not the allegations hold water.

    That statement was almost as good as his performance in denying the allegations of perverting the course of justice: i.e. that the allegations had been “shown to be untrue” whilst not saying when or where they were “shown to be untrue”. If the press is to be believed (and many of you seem to think it is) then his refusal to answer questions to the police is another example of the man not taking the responsibility of his office and position as MP seriously.

    And you still love him and think he’s doing a great job.. Be careful – on his track record he seems to be someone who takes responsibility for his actions and behaves like a grown up. For the record, a grown up answers police questions, doesn’t obfuscate and doesn’t try to blame others.

  • Patrick Smith 31st May '11 - 11:54pm

    The article is absolutely right in drawing attention to the rare skills and achievements of the Energy Secreary in reducing the national carbon footprint with much further diminution to come ,to increase the Green jobs in off shore renewables by 70,000 alone and with special investment via the new Green Investment Bank and no government subsidy for new nuclear power plants.And above all else the drive for cheaper energy costs for the worst off families and the elderly must remain a top priority.

    In Germandy we have recently seen a change of direction from their Chancellor who has now said she wil bel increasing Green Energy from wind and wave technology.

  • @Patrick
    Huhne’s rare skills seem to be passing the buck (to his election agent, how’s that for gratitude ??) and giving confusing statements when asked for clear denials to serious allegations of law breaking.

    And yet you all continue to support this man.. Incredible.

  • @Dave M, election agents actually are the ones legally responsible for submitting correct election expenses not the candidates themselves.

  • @Peter
    I’m well aware that the agents have the legal responsibility. However, this is politics. Huhne was passing the buck rather publicly. Huhne could have just said “the whole thing is baseless” and not pinned the blame for a potential offence on someone else. That said, he may be rather skilled at pinning the blame for offences on other people these days…

    One could be charitable and say that Huhne is simply clarifying a situation though this would be odd since he’s spent the past month refusing to clarify how and when the allegations that he had perverted the course of justice had been “shown to be untrue”.

    Strange how he can be very specific in one case and yet very vague in the other.

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