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20 January 2012

Who rises if Huhne falls?

Ministers are on alert for a reshuffle if Huhne is charged by the police.

By George Eaton

The sword of Damocles is swinging ever closer to Chris Huhne’s head. Today it emerged that the Sunday Times has dropped its opposition to a court ruling ordering it to hand over emails relating to speeding claims against the Energy Secretary. As you’ll recall, Essex Police are investigating whether Huhne asked his former wife Vicky Pryce to take penalty points on his behalf – a criminal offence.

Huhne has long maintained that the allegations are “incorrect” and the Prime Minister’s spokeswoman has said that David Cameron “has confidence” in him, but as the Evening Standard reported earlier this week, ministers are on alert for a mini-resuffle if he is charged.

So, who rises if Huhne falls? Ed Davey, the employment minister and Vince Cable’s deputy, is the name most frequently cited as a possible replacement. He is well regarded by Lib Dem MPs after fending off some of the wilder proposals contained in Adrian Beecroft’s report on labour market reform. The Standard also suggests that Jeremy Browne, the Foreign Office minister, is in the running.

Another name inevitably raised is that of David Laws, whom Cameron has always insisted he wants to see back on the frontbench. But at a time when Nick Clegg is pursuing a strategy of differentiation it would seem inappropriate for Laws, the Tories’ favourite Lib Dem, to replace the left-leaning Huhne, possibly their least favourite.

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