What will Chris Huhne do next? Former cabinet minister 'set to reinvent himself as green campaigner' after prison
Huhne accuses the Treasury of undermining 'green growth' in a parting shot at the Chancellor
Andrew Grice has been Political Editor of The Independent since 1998. He was previously Political Editor of The Sunday Times, where he worked for 10 years, and he has been a Westminster-based journalist since 1982. His column, Inside Politics, appears in The Independent each Saturday.
Tuesday 12 March 2013
Chris Huhne, the former Energy and Climate Change Secretary, may devote himself to championing green issues when he seeks a career outside politics on his release from prison.
Friends said today that Mr Huhne, 58, has not made up his mind on what he will do next. Some believe he may work on the environment and improving the world’s poorest countries. Others think he may start a “green growth” business.
Mr Huhne and his former wife Vicky Pryce were both sentenced to eight months imprisonment on Monday for perverting the course of justice. The former Cabinet minister will need to earn a living when he is freed, friends believe. Although his liability still has to be settled by Southwark Crown Court, the Crown Prosecution Service is seeking £110,000 in costs from Mr Huhne, who will also have a huge lawyers’ bill after intending to fight the charge against him, only to change his mind last month and plead guilty at the last minute.
Mr Huhne, who is thought to be planning to write a book while he is in prison, has admitted he will not return to politics and has spoken of seeking a “fourth career.” He was a business and economics journalist before starting his own business as a credit rating analyst and then entering politics as a Lib Dem MEP.
His strong commitment to the environmental agenda would give him credibility in that field. His last intervention in politics was to contribute two chapters to “The Green Book,” launched at the Liberal Democrats’ spring conference in Brighton last weekend and published on Thursday by Biteback Publishing.
The former minister clashed repeatedly with George Osborne when the Chancellor sought to dilute the Government’s green measures, warning that that it should not saddle UK firms with higher costs by moving faster than their European competitors.
In a parting shot at Mr Osborne, Mr Huhne accused the Treasury of undermining “green growth” and the Coalition’s goal of being “the greenest government ever.” He wrote in the book: “In hard times, the worst thing the green agenda can do is slink back , awaiting the return of growth. We need, quite simply, to go green as quickly as we can.”
Mr Huhne added: “In theory, all three major British parties now share a cross-party consensus towards decarbonisation. However, the danger is that differences in enthusiasm between the Treasury and the Department of Energy and Climate Change have become exposed, and those mixed messages worry investors about staking their money on a low-carbon future.
“Investors abhor uncertainty, particularly in an area where government taxes or subsidies are crucial in offsetting the failure of the market to take into account the impact of carbon emissions.”
The former Energy and Climate Change Secretary wrote: “Policy matters. Mood music counts. When green growth is so crucial, and is responsible for so much of the increased activity in the UK economy, ministers need to show a united front. The future is green….Either we will grow in a green way, or we will not grow at all.”
He went on: “The idea that growing and greening our economy are at odds, that we must plump for one or the other, is a classic false choice. In reality, as we invest to decarbonise our economy, we also grow it. Green investments — whether in resource efficiency or substitution for polluting processes —- create jobs, raise incomes and prop up demand. They produce green growth.”
Mr Huhne said the “green market” in the UK is already worth estimated £122.2bn a year and expected to be £155bn next year.
In another chapter, “Going Green Has to be Fair,” Mr Huhne questioned the Government’s decision to spend between £2bn and £3bn a year on winter fuel allowances for pensioners – including 60,000 who have retired to the Costa del Sol. He hoped the Government would be braver about extending the Green Deal he pioneered, which allows householders to pay for energy-saving measures over a long period on their on their fuel bills.
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