Chris Huhne admits Twitter gaffe was linked to 'catflap' affair


Richard Hall@_richardhall
Monday 31 October 2011 17:55

It took fewer than 140 characters to cause an embarrassing spat between cabinet colleagues and lay bare some of the the dark arts of politics.

Now Chris Huhne has apologised after he admitted to tipping off a journalist in a public tweet that was intended to be private about an embarrassing story involving the Home Secretary Theresa May.

On Friday, Chris Huhne, the Energy Secretary, tweeted: "from someone else fine but I do not want my fingerprints on the story. C".

The message triggered fevered speculation inside Westminster and beyond about the identity of the recipient, and the nature of the story Mr Huhne had evidently leaked.

The Minister admitted yesterday to telling a journalist about a story which suggested that a section of Mrs May's speech at the Conservative party conference had been lifted from a speech made by the Ukip leader, Nigel Farage.

Mrs May's speech had already caused a public spat between her and her colleague Ken Clarke after he questioned her claims that an illegal immigrant dodged deportation because he had a pet cat.

Mr Huhne explained on the BBC's The Politics Show yesterday: "I arrived in my constituency on Friday morning and... [heard] a recording of Theresa May and a recording from a few months previously of the leader of the UK Independence Party Nigel Farage and it was exactly the same. And I frankly thought it was so funny that when a journalist friend rang me and I told them about it they said they would write the story.

"They wanted to know if I wanted to comment on it and I said no, I didn't want to." The story appeared in Saturday's edition of The Guardian under the headline: "May accused of lifting cat tale from Ukip chief."

Mr Huhne, who said he had left a message on Mrs May's voicemail apologising for the incident, had previously claimed the tweet was intended for a member of staff, calling it a "fairly marginal" mistake.

The Minister became embroiled in another dispute with a colleague in the same interview yesterday when he said the transport secretary Phillip Hammond was recently punished with penalty points for speeding.

But sources close to Mr Hammond said: "Chris Huhne should check his facts. Philip has always been open that he has had points in the past but they have now expired."

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments