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20 June 2010

What does John Hutton’s move, and the right’s reaction to it, say about the man?

Former Labour energy secretary is welcomed into the Tory-Liberal coalition.

By James Macintyre

While the right-wing media are mustering fake rage about Chris Huhne, they are at the same time heaping praise on another figure in the Tory-Liberal coalition: its latest recruit, John Hutton.

Branded a “traitor” by elements within Labour, Hutton has joined Frank Field — the Labour MP who in 1990 urged Margaret Thatcher to stay on in office — to oversee a commission, this one on public-sector pensions.

It is no surprise at all that the Labour anger is matched with Tory delight, as George Osborne and the Conservative press seek to portray Hutton as a man of high principle.

But it should not be forgotten that this is a politician who did nothing at all to support his party in the run-up to this year’s crucial general election. Instead, the former energy secretary this month cashed in on his experience by joining the board of the US Hyperion Power Generation Inc, a firm aiming to make billions from the sale of mini-nuclear reactors.

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Opportunistic? Yes. Principled? Not quite. In fact, this is exactly the kind of “technocrat” figure who Ed Miliband rightly says did so much damage to the last government.