Huhne resigns from the cabinet

Lib Dem resigns as Energy Secretary and says he is "innocent of these charges".

As expected, Chris Huhne has fallen on his sword. Here's his statement, which he has just made outside his London flat.

The Crown Prosecution Service's decision today is deeply regrettable.

I am innocent of these charges and I intend to fight this in the courts and I am confident that a jury will agree. So as to avoid any distraction to either my official duties or my trial defence I am standing down and resigning as energy and climate change secretary. I will of course continue to serve my constituents in Eastleigh. Thank you and that's all I want to say today.

And here's the statement his former wife Vicky Pryce, who has also been charged by police, has issued through her lawyers:

As the CPS have decided to prosecute it would not be appropriate to comment further at this stage.

Obviously I hope for a quick resolution of the case. In the meantime I will be taking a little time off over the next few days to be with my family.

As I wrote earlier, there will now be a limited reshuffle with Ed Davey, the employment minister and Vince Cable's deputy, likely to replace Huhne as Energy Secretary, and Norman Lamb, Clegg's chief of staff, expected to take over Davey's brief.

Update: And here's Huhne's resignation statement in video form.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Getty
Show Hide image

Richmond is a wake-up call for Labour's Brexit strategy

No one made Labour stand in Richmond Park. 

Oh, Labour Party. There was a way through.

No one made you stand in Richmond Park. You could have "struck a blow against the government", you could have shared the Lib Dem success. Instead, you lost both your dignity and your deposit. And to cap it all (Christian Wolmar, take a bow) you self-nominated for a Nobel Prize for Mansplaining.

It’s like the party strategist is locked in the bowels of HQ, endlessly looping in reverse Olivia Newton John’s "Making a Good Thing Better".

And no one can think that today marks the end of the party’s problems on Brexit.

But the thing is: there’s no need to Labour on. You can fix it.

Set the government some tests. Table some amendments: “The government shall negotiate having regard to…”

  • What would be good for our economy (boost investment, trade and jobs).
  • What would enhance fairness (help individuals and communities who have missed out over the last decades).
  • What would deliver sovereignty (magnify our democratic control over our destiny).
  • What would improve finances (what Brexit makes us better off, individually and collectively). 

And say that, if the government does not meet those tests, the Labour party will not support the Article 50 deal. You’ll take some pain today – but no matter, the general election is not for years. And if the tests are well crafted they will be easy to defend.

Then wait for the negotiations to conclude. If in 2019, Boris Johnson returns bearing cake for all, if the tests are achieved, Labour will, and rightly, support the government’s Brexit deal. There will be no second referendum. And MPs in Leave voting constituencies will bear no Brexit penalty at the polls.

But if he returns with thin gruel? If the economy has tanked, if inflation is rising and living standards have slumped, and the deficit has ballooned – what then? The only winners will be door manufacturers. Across the country they will be hard at work replacing those kicked down at constituency offices by voters demanding a fix. Labour will be joined in rejecting the deal from all across the floor: Labour will have shown the way.

Because the party reads the electorate today as wanting Brexit, it concludes it must deliver it. But, even for those who think a politician’s job is to channel the electorate, this thinking discloses an error in logic. The task is not to read the political dynamic of today. It is to position itself for the dynamic when it matters - at the next general election

And by setting some economic tests for a good Brexit, Labour can buy an option on that for free.

An earlier version of this argument appeared on Jolyon Maugham's blog Waiting For Tax.

Jolyon Maugham is a barrister who advised Ed Miliband on tax policy. He blogs at Waiting for Tax, and writes for the NS on tax and legal issues.