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Lesson1: Never defend Chris Huhne unless you have all the facts

October 10th, 2011 Posted in Liberal Democrats by

After the Hapless Huhne affair (poor choice of words I know) which we noted here at the time, I read Paul Walters explanation of it all on LDV with interest at the weekend.

I was surprised, particularly given Chris’ track record,that such a bold defence was mounted so promptly. Experience would have told most people to “hold on a while” just in case….

Here in essence is what Paul  said…

“Chris Huhne had obviously been having a private text exchange with (that ubiquitous Huhne Aunt Sally) “a staff member” (if you believe what Huhne told the BBC’s excellent Peter Henley..)”

“…the story concerned was probably quite inconsequential, bearing in mind that someone reasonably experienced in press matters..”

“This “#tweetfailgate” story would not have taken wing so much, had it not fed into the general assumption that Chris Huhne practises media manipulative skullduggery behind the scenes.”

“…thank goodness that the LibDems have a few people, like Chris Huhne, who know their way around the dark arts of the media”

Where to start?

WRONG – Huhne has now admitted he fed a story to a journalist about a fellow coalition minister. NOT a fellow staffer then.

WRONG -The story is NOT inconsequential. A minister is caught briefing against a fellow cabinet minister and doubles the sin by then lying – on the record – to the BBC about his actions. If lying and briefing against fellow ministers is inconsequential then what on earth is “consequential”?

RIGHT &WRONG – Yes the tweetgate story gained legs because Chris does have a reputation for manipulative skulduggery. That is NOT a good thing whatever some people might think. But a tweet from any Government minister saying “From someone else fine but I do not want my fingerprints on the story. C” was always going to cause excitement.

WRONG – Chris clearly does not know his way around “the dark arts of media”. If he did he would not have a rep for “skulduggery” (some of the very best I know at this have kept their work off radar – it would shock you to the core if they were named – now there’s real manipulative skulduggery). He has also stumbled from one hapless incident to another – without any control over any of the stories he has been the centre of.

What Paul Walter didn’t say was something along the lines of …”hey Chris Huhne pushes his balls around in a wheelbarrow and whatever it turns out he has done this time, doubtless “teflon-man” will bounce back from it like he always does“.

Except I think that would be wrong too. Chris has quite clearly shot his leadership bolt – and with every day that passes his time as minister looks increasingly untenable. I don’t say that with any relish. But as a Lib Dem that cares more about the party than the career of any individual – the question has to be asked – how long can Chris’ haplessness be allowed to continue?

7 Responses to “Lesson1: Never defend Chris Huhne unless you have all the facts”

  1. Geoffrey Payne Says:

    It is an annoying story, but other Lib Dem ministers have done worse and still kept their jobs. As far as his particular job is concerned he has done well and should be allowed to get on with it.

  2. Philip Walker Says:

    At the moment, it looks like Secretaries of State, both Liberal and Conservative, are falling all over themselves to be next out of the Cabinet. What’s going on?

  3. Angela Harbutt Says:

    Philip – YEP Chris is probably very thankful that Fox is eating up all the media time right now.

    Geoffrey – It is actually more than “annoying” – I hope that you really can see why that is the case. And we as Lib Dems should hold up our hands when one of our own gets it so catastrophically wrong as Chris has on this occassion. As for his job – I have no desire to see any Lib Dem lose their job in a reshuffle, but I am not sure that can be helped under the circs.

  4. Tom Papworth Says:


    I suspect that he will in fact survive, for now. Not only is Fox “eating up all the media time right now” but Cameron won’t want to sacrifice two scalps in the same week – not even an LD one. “To lose one parent…” and all that!

    However, Huhne has demonstrated poor media handling skills on a number of occasions and I suspect that sooner or later this will be his downfall.

  5. Angela Harbutt Says:

    Tom – I agree – do not expect a swift removal – just that it seems almost inevtiabe that it will come.

  6. Paul Walter Says:

    Are you 100% sure he did lie, Angela? He could have been giving that message to a staff member to give to Patrick Wintour. How do you know he wasn’t doing that? And it was a local story, as he told Peter Henley, because the UKIP speech had been in Huhne’s constituency.

    And I would contend it was an inconsequential story (although it doesn’t matter). I have almost forgotten what it was about. It wasn’t repeated much beyond the Guardian (the actual UKIP story that is).

    Cabinet Ministers are briefing against each other all the time, particularly across the party divide in the coalition. Thank goodness they are, as it points up the diffences between the LDs and the Tories.

    But congratulations on a wonderfully incendiary post. I enjoyed it – particularly the balls in a wheelbarrow bit. Wonderful.

  7. Paul Walter Says:

    “If lying and briefing against fellow ministers is inconsequential”…

    You have misconstrued what I wrote, Angela, with respect.

    If you take this one of the quotes from my piece that you actually reproduce above:

    “the story concerned was probably quite inconsequential, bearing in mind that someone reasonably experienced in press matters..”

    See? The clue is in the sentence: “the story concerned was probably quite inconsequential”.

    See? By “story concerned” I was meaning (I hope obviously) the story about which the mistakenly tweeted message was concerned. i.e as it turned out, the story that Theresa May’s “Catflap” story was originally stated almost word for word by Nigel Farage.

    I obviously was not referring to the story about the mistaken tweet itself. Of course not. Indeed, the sense of the paragraphs before and after that quote make it abundantly clear I was specifically referring to the UKIP/May story rather than the “#HuhneTweetfail” story.

    But, again, I really loved your piece. Well done.