It’s completely unsurprising that there will be many people in the country tonight who will certainly not be mourning the loss of Chris Huhne from the government. What is more surprising is that some of those people will be Liberal Democrats.
I remember the moment I really became a Chris Huhne fan. It was during the leadership contest in 2007 when I saw both him and Nick Clegg speak at a hustings in Manchester Town Hall. Both were on top, liberal-crowd-pleasing form, but Huhne stood out, and I was thoroughly impressed.
And I’ve continued to be impressed since.
Just think how differently Huhne could have reacted to such a narrow defeat – and in those circumstances. He could have been bitter, resentful and spent the next few years scheming about the overthrow of Nick Clegg. He could have been Clegg’s Gordon Brown. But he didn’t. He picked himself up and got on with selling the Liberal Democrat brand.
And he is really very good at doing that. He’s undoubtedly one of the best media performers among our parliamentarians, and he’s never more than a phone call away from a camera lens. Good. Why would we want our MPs to be any different?
It’s also true that he’s never backwards in coming forwards – but how could anyone ever say that pejoratively? Since when was it an admirable trait in politicians that they are unwilling to give their opinion?
And most importantly, of course, he’s been a bloody successful minister, following his crucial role in forming the coalition (read David Laws’s book to see why he was so crucial). Even those who don’t like him personally or the policies he has implemented as energy and climate change secretary surely can’t say he’s not been effective. The green investment bank, the green deal and his work on climate change on the international stage are just three achievements which mean he can look back at his 20 months in government with pride.
I hear people say that Huhne is arrogant, prickly, cocky. Leaving aside the truth of those views (and in my personal dealings with him I’ve never found him to be anything but extremely pleasant), are those really good reasons – given all of the above – to be glad that he is no longer present in government?
One of the complaints that Tony Blair makes in his memoirs is about the difficulty of choosing effective, capable ministers from the governing party’s (or parties’) benches. Chris Huhne is highly intelligent, has been extremely successful in the three or four careers he’s had and has proved himself a first-rate minister. His resignation is a loss to the party and to the country, and I for one am hoping for his speedy return to the frontline.