05 February 2013

Chris Huhne - a few thoughts

The big story of the last couple of days (apart from the discovery of Richard III in a car park) is that Chris Huhne now faces a prison sentence after pleading guilty to perverting the course of justice after getting his then-wife Vicky Pryce to take speeding points for him by pretending she was driving their car in 2003 when it was actually him driving it.

A few rather random thoughts on this:

  • if you think about it, this kind of thing is probably going on all of the time - particularly in cases where someone gets caught for speeding with 9 points on their licence. Unless the culprit's actually been stopped by physical police rather than cameras, or there is (e.g.) CCTV footage of the person behind the wheel, it's easy to get away with. And Huhne would have gotten away with it if it hadn't been for his recent marital infidelity and subsequent estrangement from Pryce. 
  • Apparently Huhne is the first ever serving Cabinet minister to be forced to resign because of committing a crime - that is a quite amazing statistic. Either previous Cabinets were whiter-than-white or (more likely) they were much better at covering their tracks than Huhne has been. 
  • It's amusing to think that in the wake of the AV referendum debacle in 2011, speculation was rising about a possible leadership challenge from Huhne. I discussed it at some length in a post back then. This leaves the space on the "left" of the party wide open for someone like Tim Farron to make a challenge after Clegg resigns ignominiously in May 2015 (I say "left" because there is really no evidence that Farron - or most of the other "social democratic" Lib Dems for that matter - are really "left" in any way whatseover, but there you go). 
  • This sets up an interesting by-election in Eastleigh where some people - including the normally-reliable Channel 4 News - seem to have written off Labour already, which is somewhat odd, because they are the obvious protest vote (well, them plus UKIP, but an upsurge in UKIP is going to mainly weaken the Tories). The deal in seats like Eastleigh and a whole load of other leafy suburban parliamentary constituencies - Twickenham, Sheffield Hallam - was that they were the places where Labour was so far behind in the run-up to 1997 that there was a mass movement from Labour voters towards the Lib Dems in an effort to unseat the Tories. But this of course relied on the Lib Dems being a fundamentally anti-Tory party. That calculation no longer works now that the Lib Dems are effectively an appendage of the Tory party - its "withered arm", if you like. So I would expect a big upswing in the Labour vote and indeed I will be having a look at what the odds are on Labour winning this by-election because it looks like a pretty good bet to me. See you at Paddy Power.