Nervous Lib Dems search for MP with a clean past to replace Chris Huhne


Chris Huhne formally stood down as an MP today – and will shortly lose his Liberal Democrat membership.

As the shamed former minister’s political career came to an abrupt end, his party began the search for a successor to contest the forthcoming by-election in Eastleigh, which it has held since 1994.

In an email to approved candidates, Liberal Democrat headquarters warned them they must have nothing in their past that risked bringing the party “into disrepute”. The candidates  were also warned they would need to cope with “constant pressure and media intrusion”.

Mr Huhne, who faces jail after he admitted lying to avoid a speeding penalty, remained out of sight as the trial began of his former wife, Vicky Pryce. One ally said he had been deeply affected by the episode. He said: “Chris is very shaken by all of it. But he seems most concerned about the impact on his family.”

The man who came within a few hundred votes of becoming the Liberal Democrat leader has accepted that he will have to leave the party. A source said: “I expect him to stand down as a member now. It wouldn’t be a lifetime exclusion – he will have the ability to reapply.”

The Liberal Democrats are outwardly confident about their by-election prospects as they have a sophisticated political machine in Eastleigh and hold all the council seats in the Hampshire constituency. Senior Tories privately admit that their organisation in the area is moribund.

However, both sides admit the fallout from the Huhne scandal on Eastleigh’s voters is hard to calculate. A Liberal Democrat candidate will be selected by the weekend, with the party expected to select a local standard-bearer in an attempt to distance itself from the turmoil surrounding its previous MP, who secured a majority of 3,864 over the Conservatives at the last general election.

The Tories signalled their intention to fight an aggressive campaign against their Coalition partners as the party chairman, Grant Shapps, tore into Mr Huhne’s “lies”. He said Eastleigh’s voters would take a “dim view about having been lied to by their Lib Dem MP”.

The Ukip leader, Nigel Farage, dashed speculation he could stand despite the party’s second place 10 weeks ago in the Rotherham and Middlesbrough by-elections. He said: “We already have a dozen excellent people who have put their names forward to stand as the Ukip candidate.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own