2 Feb 2012

We all wait to hear Huhne fate – Chris Huhne included

Chris Huhne was told this morning that he was going to hear the CPS decision tomorrow morning at around 9 – 1 hour before the rest of us do. Likewise, I understand, his former wife, Vicky Pryce.

His future leadership hopes died some time ago. Tomorrow will decide whether his career in front-line, fast-lane politics dies too.
Chris Huhne was so nearly the Lib Dem leader it must’ve hurt. He didn’t show it on the day the results were announced, but his team was convinced that as the campaign went on they were drawing closer and closer to Nick Clegg and but for some delayed postal votes would’ve won it. Not showing his emotions in public has been a Chris Huhne signature. You’ll find any number of ministers and civil servants who’ve been astonished at how cool and composed he’s been at moments of maximum drama in this saga.

Chris Huhne was never as “left” as his leadership campaign inevitably portrayed him. But he was always up for being more strident than Nick Clegg. His would’ve been a sharper elbowed leadership if it had happened. He showed a flavour of that in Cabinet clashes with David Cameron and George Osborne in the aftermath of the AV referendum and in remarks made during it. He showed it again at the post December 2011 EU Summit Cabinet when he condemned the lack of consultation with himself over Europe – some ministers round the Cabinet table thought that was showing more cheek to Nick Clegg than David Cameron.

For all the public argy-bargy with Tories (he was the man who most piled into Andy Coulson in opposition), he was also the senior Lib Dem who, behind the scenes, argued longest and hardest that full coalition had to be the Lib Dem preference after the 2010 election. He was arguing that as early as January 2010 – somewhere in the files lurks a minority report he wrote promoting coalition rather than “confidence and supply” or some other propping up of minority government. That report argues that should mean coalition with either Labour or the Tories. It was a measure of his ambition to get into office but also shows a certain amount of prescience and pragmatism.

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