Leading article: Farewell to an advocate of greener government

Chris Huhne was widely seen as a highly effective and committed member of the Cabinet

Related Topics

A shadow had hung over Chris Huhne's position as Energy Secretary ever since it became clear that the police were taking more than a voyeuristic interest in the allegations made by his now ex-wife. So when the Director of Public Prosecutions announced yesterday morning that charges were to be brought, the wheels of the government machine moved about as swiftly and smoothly as is possible in such circumstances.

The announcement was made; Mr Huhne tendered his resignation. The Prime Minister accepted it with regret; the Deputy Prime Minister and Mr Huhne's party leader praised the outgoing minister's achievements, and another Liberal Democrat, Ed Davey, was promoted to the role to Energy and Climate Change from the Department of Business and Skills. Everything was done and dusted before lunch – including the welcome advancement of Jo Swinson, one of the promising younger Liberal Democrats, who becomes Nick Clegg's parliamentary private secretary.

With Mr Huhne's departure, however, there was a distinct sense of one chapter ending and another beginning. Although David Cameron stressed that Mr Huhne would be welcomed back to government if he cleared his name, his consistent use of the past tense in what was an unusually generous tribute to a member of another party, seemed to be the seal on Mr Huhne's tenure at the Energy Department. But his time there does not deserve to pass into history without the recognition that his departure is a serious loss to a Cabinet of which he was acknowledged to be a highly effective and committed minister.

As the disappointed candidate for Liberal Democrat leader, who was only just pipped to the post by Mr Clegg, Mr Huhne had picked himself up and carried on, apparently without rancour. He wholeheartedly supported his former rival's decision to enter a Coalition, and became – with Vince Cable – a senior minister who allayed the doubts many harboured about the ability of the Liberal Democrats to take their place in government.

In the event, both his personal expertise and his party allegiance proved to be distinct assets, when Mr Cameron found himself unexpectedly forming, and then governing in, a Coalition. As a Liberal Democrat at Energy, Mr Huhne gave the Government a far greener tinge than it would have had if the Conservatives alone had been in power. As an economist and former journalist, he was respected in the business world, as in the world of environmental campaigning, as someone who not only knew his stuff, but got things done. Implementation of Mr Cameron's pledge to "lead the greenest government in history" might have left much to be desired, but it is worth considering how much less impressive the Coalition's green credentials might have been without a Liberal Democrat, and Mr Huhne in particular, to defend them.

Nor did he mince his words in support of Britain taking an active part in Europe. Making common cause with Mr Clegg after Mr Cameron wielded his veto at the EU summit in December, Mr Huhne can take a share of the credit for the more positive position taken by Mr Cameron in Brussels earlier this week. Assured and ambitious, he never shrank from making his voice heard at the Cabinet table.

For all these reasons, Mr Huhne's departure is regrettable. The Coalition would have been, and will be, a different government without him. Even the ablest politician, however, can be felled by failings in personal integrity. Mr Huhne would not be the first, or the last. His future, including his future in politics, will now be decided by the courts.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: SAGE Bookkeeper & PA to Directors

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Neo-Nazis march in London  

I'm taking my Jewish kids to a vile neo-Nazi rally in London this weekend because I want them to learn about free speech

Richard Ferrer
A police officer carries a casualty to safety  

Tunisia attack proves that we cannot stop terrorists carrying out operations against Britons in Muslim countries

Robert Verkaik
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map