Chris Huhne attacks "right wing ideologues" over green laws

The Energy Secretary's comments are part of the Liberal Democrat strategy to speak out more frequent

In the latest outburst by a Liberal Democrat Minister, the Energy Secretary Chris Huhne has described his Conservative colleagues pushing for less regulation as "right wing ideologues" and "deregulation zealots".

Speaking to the Social Liberal Forum, Huhne attacked the inclusion of environmental regulations on a list of red tape to be considered for scrapping. He said:

Between the obsession with micromanagement and target-setting displayed by the Labour party, and the fixation with deregulation and scrapping rules just because they are rules on offer from some right wing ideologues, we Liberal Democrats have a real chance to define an evidence-based, intelligent and distinctive approach.

Ministers are currently considering changes to the amount of regulation and are encouraging suggestions from the public to a government website called the "red tape challenge". If enough people call for an item to be discarded, ministers must explain why it should be protected. The list includes 278 environmental regulations.

In a clear attempt to put some distance between his own party and the Tories, he added:

The belief that regulation always implies costs is equally fatuous - something that's obvious to Liberal Democrats, who have never taken the view that the market is always right.

Reportedly, Vince Cable supports Huhne's position, and other Lib Dems are gearing up to fight to retain a range of regulations. This is part of a Lib Dem strategy to fight their corner more aggressively, following losses in the local elections and AV referendum in May. This has been invigorated after significant concessions on NHS reform.

It's not the first time Huhne has lashed out. During the AV referendum campaign, he threatened legal action over alleged lies from the "no" campaign. It is worth noting that Huhne -- who lost out on party leadership to Nick Clegg -- is ambitious, and publically criticising the Tories will strengthen his position with his party.

Of course, regulation will not be the issue that splits the coalition, but it is interesting to note the ramping up of rhetoric on all fronts. The question now is: how long will it take the Tory backbench, already frustrated, to start acting up too?


Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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How Labour risks becoming a party without a country

Without establishing the role of Labour in modern Britain, the party is unlikely ever to govern again.

“In my time of dying, want nobody to mourn

All I want for you to do is take my body home”

- Blind Willie Johnson

The Conservative Party is preparing itself for a bloody civil war. Conservative MPs will tell anyone who wants to know (Labour MPs and journalists included) that there are 100 Conservative MPs sitting on letters calling for a leadership contest. When? Whenever they want to. This impending war has many reasons: ancient feuds, bad blood, personal spite and enmity, thwarted ambition, and of course, the European Union.

Fundamentally, at the heart of the Tory war over the European Union is the vexed question of ‘What is Britain’s place in the World?’ That this question remains unanswered a quarter of a century after it first decimated the Conservative Party is not a sign that the Party is incapable of answering the question, but that it has no settled view on what the correct answer should be.

The war persists because the truth is that there is no compromise solution. The two competing answers are binary opposites: internationalist or insular nationalist, co-habitation is an impossibility.

The Tories, in any event, are prepared to keep on asking this question, seemingly to the point of destruction. For the most part, Labour has answered this question: Britain will succeed as an outward looking, internationalist state. The equally important question facing the Labour Party is ‘What is the place of the Labour Party in modern Britain?’ Without answering this question, Labour is unlikely to govern ever again and in contrast to the Tories, Labour has so far refused to acknowledge that such a question is being asked of it by the people it was founded to serve. At its heart, this is a question about England and the rapidly changing nature of the United Kingdom.

In the wake of the 2016 elections, the approach that Labour needs to take with regard to the ‘English question’ is more important than ever before. With Scotland out of reach for at least a generation (assuming it remains within the United Kingdom) and with Labour’s share of the vote falling back in Wales in the face of strong challenges from Plaid Cymru and UKIP, Labour will need to rely upon winning vast swathes of England if we are to form a government in 2020.

In a new book published this week, Labour’s Identity Crisis, Tristram Hunt has brought together Labour MPs, activists and parliamentary candidates from the 2015 general election to explore the challenges facing Labour in England and how the party should address these, not purely as an electoral device, but as a matter of principle.

My contribution to the book was inspired by Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti. The track list reads like the score for a musical tragedy based upon the Labour Party from 2010 onwards: In My Time of Dying, Trampled Underfoot, Sick Again, Ten Years Gone. 

Continued Labour introspection is increasingly tiresome for the political commentariat – even boring – and Labour’s Identity Crisis is a genuinely exciting attempt to swinge through this inertia. As well as exploring our most recent failure, the book attempts to chart the course towards the next Labour victory: political cartography at its most urgent.

This collection of essays represents an overdue effort to answer the question that the Party has sought to sidestep for too long.  In the run up to 2020, as the United Kingdom continues to atomise, the Labour Party must have an ambitious, compelling vision for England, or else risks becoming a party without a country.

Jamie Reed is Labour MP for Copeland.