Our Man in Westminster: Chris Huhne’s future utterances about his trial should be penitent, not petulant

 

It would be difficult to think of an ex-politician who has brought as much ridicule and vitriol upon himself as Chris Huhne did on Monday, by claiming that the moral of the story of his downfall is that newspaper ownership in the UK should be more diverse. He must have suffered a lonely moment when even Nick Clegg disowned him.

Whatever case Huhne had to make about the treatment politicians receive from the press, he is the worst person to make it.

It was a pathetic sight seeing Elliot Morley, who was not a bad environment minister, weeping in the dock over the ruin he had brought upon himself and his family by fiddling his expenses, but there is no public sympathy for MPs who lie, or break the law.  And there is no road they can take in public but that of the penitent. Former perjurer Jonathan Aitken has found the way: if you are lucky, he might turn up at a Sunday church service near you, to talk from the pulpit about sin and repentance.

That rule, mind you, is for MPs. For members of the House of Lords, the regime is so much lighter. The former high-flying Tory lawyer, Lord Taylor of Warwick, who was jailed for fiddling expenses, ignored a public appeal from a fellow Tory peer, Michael Dobbs, not to embarrass the House of Lords by coming back. He returned in June last year, since when he has asked a few questions and has diligently claimed £300 a day for showing up. By March this year, the latest month for which figures are available, he had claimed a total of £23,700.

But even his insouciance is trumped by Lord Hanningfield, former Tory leader of Essex County Council, also jailed for fiddling his expenses. The Hansard record shows that he has not made a speech or asked any oral or written questions since February 2010 – yet he too routinely claims the £300 daily attendance allowance to which he is legally entitled. From April 2012 to March 2013, he pocketed £36,900, just for being on the premises.

The irony of Huhne’s story is that his motive for illegally getting his wife to take his speeding points was that he was desperate to hold on to his seat in the Commons.

If he had lost it and taken his peerage, he could feed at the same trough as Lords Hanningfield and Taylor.

Norway’s Iron Lady  is made of stjerne stuff

Norway’s prime minister-in-waiting, Erna Solberg, sounds like a formidable woman. Since her election as leader of the Conservative Party in 2004, she has been known as “Jern-Erna”, or Erna the Star, for having turned her party around and almost doubling its support, according to the polls, from 15 per cent in 2005 to between 25 and 30 per cent today. Her programme is one of keeping public accounts in order, keeping taxes down, and farming out parts of the public sector to private companies, through public-private p artnerships. She had a tough reputation as Minister for Immigration from 2001, when some people started calling her Stjerne-Erna, or “Iron Erna”. She liked that. “Why do they call me Jern-Erna when I want to be called Stjerne-Erna?” she asked on her blog.

A stern right-wing female politician who takes office after a Labour government, who believes in privatisation, low tax and being tough on immigration, and wants people to think she is an iron lady. What is it about her that stirs something from the memory?

Alastair ‘clarifies’ WMD relocation

Alastair Campbell has been in touch, after I wrote that he was quoted in the Nottingham Evening Post apparently claiming that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction in 2003, but they were not found because they were given to Syria. He says that he is not suggesting that Saddam Hussein, who hated the Assads, left them a parting gift. But he adds: “We knew there had been WMD in Iraq so when post-action they were not found, the idea they had gone across the borders was a live one.”

The idea that there was somebody with pro-Syrian sympathies in Saddam’s Iraq capable to whisking away those WMD is fantastic, of course. But what this comment illustrates is that Blair’s circle really expected to find WMD, and were shocked when none turned up. I like the idea that their immediate reaction was: “Somebody’s nicked them and taken them to Syria!”

Prescott the trade union boss

Tony Blair once complained of the “scars on my back” from his battles with trade unions, but at least he never had to face a union general secretary named John Prescott. Because Dominic Shelmerdine, author My Original Ambition: Letters from Persons of Consequence, who writes to the famous asking them what they first wanted to be, has had a reply from Lord Prescott.

He says his ambition was to be a union official, but Bill Hogarth, general secretary of the Seamen’s Union, did not agree, so “the next bet was Parliament”. How different things might have been.

He’s a fan... but I’m not

Ed Balls has “developed the doctrine of never making a commitment to anything ever at any time other than to support Norwich City Football Club,” Charles Clarke, the former Labour Home Secretary, tells the Eastern Daily Press. Not the shadow Chancellor’s No 1 fan.

Twitter: @andymcsmith

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?