Busy with lots of things this week, so apologies if you’ve been missing my posts (hope springs eternal and all that).
Anyway, in the last few days, it looks like Our Chris has received two pointed attacks, one from the Institute of Hard Sums and one from the infamous Michael Crick. I’ll deal with the latter first.
Not that there’s much to deal with. In a sign of how newsworthy the BBC themselves consider this story, it isn’t mentioned on their own news portal. Their top “Huhne Item” is about the Guido’s revelations about a druggie article in a magazine he edited as a student. That is how seriously your own colleagues take you Mr Crick.
In fact, I’d say the biggest lapse of judgement Huhne demonstrated here was agreeing to to do a recorded interview with Crick. I’m not saying he should have avoided the whole thing, it’s just that I’ve been on the receiving end of the Crick Technique, know others who have had the same experience, and have learnt that this is one of the ways in which he stitches people up. In my own case I must have done okay because he didn’t use the story at all in the end, but he has a habit of lulling people into a sense of security and then quickly ravaging them like a rottweiller to get that same look of surprise that all his interviewees have. You never get to see the “nice” bit of the interview.
Huhne should have only agreed to do an interview live, in which better journalistic standards have to be enforced. Finally, I have to say, listening to Kirsty Wark pontificate about the misuse of public funds (in this case hundreds of pounds rather than hundreds of millions) was rather hard to take.
Onto the IFS, which Simon Mollan has already gleefully alluded to. My genuine first reaction when reading about their findings was “only Â£21 billion?” I’d heard that this tax cut would have come to closer to Â£30bn.
But of course, this is tosh, and the idea that Huhne has a “case to answer” here is to misunderstand the purpose of leadership. By talking about taking people who earn minimum wage out of income tax, Chris is setting the party direction. He is purposefully not spelling out detailed policy proposals. He hasn’t said this should be done in a single term, nor has he said that 100% of environmental tax rises should be dedicated to the goal (and as both Jock Coats and myself have pointed out on many occasions, environmental taxation includes land taxes – no-one is arguing loading everything onto fossil fuels). It is for the wider party to come up with a detailed set of policy proposals that aim to meet this goal; in this sense the result of the leadership election is the start of a process, not the end of it.
What is crucial however, is that Huhne is prepared to offer us leadership on the issue. He isn’t content with saying “the environment is good, mmm’kay?” in the way the Campbell Campaign is open to the charge of. And he isn’t prepared to cop out, in the way that Zac Goldsmith has done (shock! horror! he’s sold out, who’dathunkit?), by saying that you can achieve significant environmental goals without any extra regulations or taxes.
I have to confess with getting a little bored with the leadership ballot now. It’s already over bar the shouting, but we have to observe two more weeks for the last few stragglers to get their ballot papers in. My best guess is that it will be close between Huhne and Campbell, but I can’t see how blogging about it much more will make much difference.
The one thing I’m genuinely surprised about is how vitriolic it has become, particularly towards Huhne. All that anger would appear to be displacement. Rather than question why it is that Campbell has gone from having the whole thing sown up to (possibly) being pipped at the post, a lot of bloggers (and it would appear, senior politicians) have instead opted to take their frustrations out on Huhne, who’s only crime was to make a better fist of running a leadership campaign than Campbell.
Most readers of this blog will be unaware of the incredibly unwise allegations that were posted (and removed by me) here a few days ago, which would have probably done Huhne’s election bid very little harm but if picked up by the media would have caused the whole party problems. People appear to have lost all perspective in the course of the contest.
Whoever wins, Huhne deserves real credit as it takes real skill to go from “Whuhne?” to the odds-on favourite. Win or lose, Campbell supporters need to learn to deal with that fact, and fast. I wouldn’t want to see our next election campaign run like the Campbell campaign, and I certainly don’t want to see the whole party derailed by people who can’t cope with the fact that their candidate lost.