Chris Huhne and the right wing press
It has been a rollercoster couple of days for Chris Huhne. After his recent spats with the Tories over the AV referendum campaign reminded Lib Dems that he was nearly their leader, he had a spat with both George Osborne and Vince Cable over cimate legislation. And he seems to have won. Lib Dems will I’m sure be claiming this as a significant victory. Given Cable was rumoured to be opposing the move, it’s the climate secretary and his staff team (the excellent Joel Kenrick) who get the credit.
But just as news of his victory comes out, so do tales from his ex-wife. She’s alledging some pretty dubious stuff about him persuading others to ‘take on’ penalty points on his driving license. If they turn out to be true, he will surely have to resign. But this isn’t what I’m interested in. For me, what’s interesting is the timing, and who it is that is pushing this story.
Because the tale is coming out only just more than a week after the referendum – right as speculation about Huhne standing against Clegg is at an all time high. Perhaps it’s surfacing now because his ex-wife has a book to sell. But perhaps the timing is less coincidental? Is the Times keen to defend Clegg?
Let’s leave that aside though, we can’t know when they got the story. Who is it that is pushing this story? Well, on the twittersphere, it seems the main person shouting about it is my old university sparring partner, Harry Cole – darling of the right wing media, increasingly the Tory blogger in chief. Now, Harry is proud to never knowingly be on message. And I can well believe that he would cause the coalition problems if it meant he got to slag off a Lib Dem. But I’m not convinced it will. Because for me, there only ever seemed one route out of coalition for the Lib Dems, and that is someone running against Clegg at the autumn comference on a clear anti-coalition ticket.
It always seemed to me that this is what Huhne was lining up to do – that he seemed to be carving out a niche as a candidate who was serious and talented enough to be in the cabinet, whilst at the same time getting headlines for criticising the Tories – not on government policy for which he has collective responsibility, but on anything else that will get into the papers.
And Huhne is clearly the frontrunner to be the change candidate against Clegg. And so, by damaging him, or by taking him down, the right wing media, cheered on by the Tory blogosphere, will be delighted to see him go. Not just because they don’t like having to be in government with any Lib Dems, but because it takes away one of the few people who could have led a Lib Dem rebellion and broken the coalition.
And with that in mind, I hope the allegations against Huhne are swiftly disproven.