A departure widely unmourned, but there is no upside for the Lib Dems

Huhne was not the most "coalicious" figure in government, but that is precisely why ordinary party m

There is a thread of glee running through some of the commentary around Chris Huhne's fate this morning. This is because the former Energy Secretary has rubbed a lot of people in Westminster up the wrong way. Many Tories see him as insufficiently collegiate when it comes to collective cabinet responsibility for the coalition project. He is suspected of keeping too beady an eye on that corner of the Lib Dem grass roots where visceral loathing of the Conservatives lurks.

Nor has it ever been forgotten in Nick Clegg's office that Huhne was once his rival for the party leadership.The departure creates a vacancy for the promotion of more malleable Cleggites - or at least people with whom the Tories are more comfortable doing business. (Step forward "Orange Book" liberal Edward Davey.)

But there really is no upside to this episode for the Lib Dems. Away from the microscopic detail of Westminster personality politics, this is just a story of a minister crashing out of cabinet with a sleazy cloud over his head. And the minister is a Liberal Democrat. The party is having a hard enough time being known for anything other than its famous tuition fees u-turn. The brand, at the moment, is apparently associated in voters' minds with nothing at all or the intrinsic worthlessness of political promises. To then appear in headlines because a leading figure in the team faces criminal charges is not a good look for the party, whichever way you configure it.

Besides, for all that there was no love lost between Huhne and Clegg, it has sometimes been useful having a voice in the cabinet who is not altogether "coalicious", as they say. The kind of scratchy,abrasive dissent that never fully erupts into opposition - Huhne's speciality - operates as a safety valve for the purposes of party unity, reassuring ordinary members and MPs that their leaders haven't been entirely captured by the Tories.

Rafael Behr is political columnist at the Guardian and former political editor of the New Statesman

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Jeremy Corbyn challenged by Labour MPs to sack Ken Livingstone from defence review

Former mayor of London criticised at PLP meeting over comments on 7 July bombings. 

After Jeremy Corbyn's decision to give Labour MPs a free vote over air strikes in Syria, tonight's Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) meeting was less fractious than it could have been. But one grandee was still moved to declare that the "ferocity" of the attacks on the leader made it the most "uplifting" he had attended.

Margaret Beckett, the former foreign secretary, told the meeting: "We cannot unite the party if the leader's office is determined to divide us." Several MPs said afterwards that many of those who shared Corbyn's opposition to air strikes believed he had mishandled the process by appealing to MPs over the heads of the shadow cabinet and then to members. David Winnick declared that those who favoured military action faced a "shakedown" and deselection by Momentum activists. "It is completely unacceptable. They are a party within a party," he said of the Corbyn-aligned group. The "huge applause" for Hilary Benn, who favours intervention, far outweighed that for the leader, I'm told. 

There was also loud agreement when Jack Dromey condemned Ken Livingstone for blaming Tony Blair's invasion of Iraq for the 7 July 2005 bombings. Along with Angela Smith MP, Dromey demanded that Livingstone be sacked as the co-chair of Labour's defence review. Significantly, Benn said aftewards that he agreed with every word Dromey had said. Corbyn's office has previously said that it is up to the NEC, not the leader, whether the former London mayor holds the position. In reference to 7 July, an aide repeated Corbyn's statement that he preferred to "remember the brilliant words Ken used after 7/7". 

As on previous occasions, MPs complained that the leader failed to answer the questions that were put to him. A shadow minister told me that he "dodged" one on whether he believed the UK should end air strikes against Isis in Iraq. In reference to Syria, a Corbyn aide said afterwards that "There was significant support for the leader. There was a wide debate, with people speaking on both sides of the arguments." After David Cameron's decision to call a vote on air strikes for Wednesday, leaving only a day for debate, the number of Labour MPs backing intervention is likely to fall. One shadow minister told me that as few as 40-50 may back the government, though most expect the total to be closer to the original figure of 99. 

At the end of another remarkable day in Labour's history, a Corbyn aide concluded: "It was always going to be a bumpy ride when you have a leader who was elected by a large number outside parliament but whose support in the PLP is quite limited. There are a small number who find it hard to come to terms with that result."

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.