Friday, February 03, 2012

Huhne's Fall

At the Conservative Conference that was held following the formation of the Coalition government there were many, often negative, views from delegates about the need to be in government with the Liberal Democrats. By contrast, Tory ministers, enjoying government for the first time after a long spell in the political cold, were almost falling over themselves to commend their Lib Dem partners as effective and realistic ministers. Nowhere was the love-in more apparent than amongst Tory members of the Energy and Climate Change department. Charles Hendry couldn't say enough about how excellent a minister was his new Lib Dem cabinet boss - one Chris Huhne. Which was odd in a way, given that Huhne remained arguably the most tribal, and certainly most difficult, of the new Lib Dem ministers.

But then, Huhne was not intended by nature to be an easy man to get along with. He was relentlessly awkward with the Prime Minister and his top team; his relationship with his own leader, Nick Clegg, though long-lasting seems scarcely relaxed; while the acrimonious split from his wife is the direct cause of his having to leave the cabinet today.

Easy-going people do not usually thrive in the political world, which likes and needs its prickly, difficult, mercurial, phenomenally egotistical practitioners. Huhne, after all, rose far and fast in the few years since being elected. His rhinoceros skin allowed him to keep going where other, lesse figures would have surely wilted long before now. Even today, there was an air of defiance in his resignation and a clear sense of Terminator-style "I'll Be Back".

But while Huhne departs to fight his criminal charges, and confront the ghost of his failed mariage, the coalition will continue almost seamlessly - for all the 24 hour talk about this - and Huhne will learn the lesson that so many much hailed politicians have learned before him, including one of the possibly beneficiaries of his departure, David Laws. In the relentless world of politics, no-one, absolutely no-one, is indispensible, and everyone gets forgotten more quickly than they would like. Huhne's fall is no tragedy. It is simply a common political tale. Hubris brings decline brings mortality. It's just that most politicians prefer not to think this will ever apply to them.

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