UK's Chris Huhne Must Go Immediately

Hiding behind the legacy left behind by the last Labour government will leave him with a career not worth saving, writes Harry Cole from Westminster.

Chris Huhne: The wrong arm of the law
Harry Cole
On 18 May 2011 14:47

The overlord of spin and the media, Alastair Campbell, said you have eleven days to kill a story. Today is day ten for the UK’s embattled Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne.

Whether or not it is ever proved that Huhne did force his estranged wife Vicky Pryce to put speeding points on his driving licence in 2003, as she alleges, he should have already stood down to clear his name, especially after a recording of him attempting to instigate a cover-up was produced by The Sunday Times.

After two weekends of Sunday newspaper savaging, and days of bloggers and journalists digging, the police have today declared they will be interviewing the man himself.

This well reported conversation between Huhne and Pryce should be the starting point for any line of police questioning:

HuhneIf I were you ... do not talk. I would have thought you would not want to talk. The only way they can stand that up is by getting you to talk to them. There is simply no other person who could possibly tell them whether it is true or not.

Pryce: It’s one of the things that worried me when you made me take the points.

HuhneI honestly don’t think, I really don’t think, that it is sensible to have these sorts of conversations over the phone

Imagine if this had happened twenty years ago. Huhne would have been out of the door before the story had even gone to print. The age of the honorable ministerial resignation seems dead. Cabinet members can now flout the laws they make. Never is it more crystal clear, than at times like this, just how removed from the perils of the real world the political class really is.

Like most of the dangerous precedents that bestow modern politics in Britain, the blame lands firmly at the feet of the “whiter than white” last Labour government.

In 2009 Labour Attorney General Baroness Scotland was fined £5,000 for a breach of the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006, or in other words employing an illegal immigrant. It was the Baroness who had guided the legislation through the House of Lords and spoke on several occasions about the seriousness of cracking down on employers. Did she walk? Of course not.

But of course most famously Prime Minister Tony Blair was interviewed, with his lawyers, by Scotland Yard over the 'Cash for Honours scandal'. Imagine if a police investigation into a serving Prime Minister went that far down the line fifty years ago. The government would have collapsed.

The Liberal Democrat’s President Tim Farron spun this week that Huhne could certainly carry on in his job while under police investigation because “it had happened before”. Presumably a reference to Blair. It’s nice to see that the benchmark for a party to lose all its moral standards is exactly one year in government. Just because a precedent exists, that doesn’t make it right.

There is a certain irony to this all given that it was Chris Huhne himself who first wrote to the police asking them to investigate the 'Cash for Honours' affair, and he is now hiding behind his old enemy’s precedent in an attempt to save his career. If he uses Labour’s dishonorable tactics to try to survive, his career won’t be worth saving.

Harry Cole is a writer and journalist and the news editor for the Guido Fawkes blog.  He also writes for Total Politics Magazine.

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