UK's Huhne faces sea of troubles

By Eric Watkins
The UK’s Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Chris Huhne is facing a sea of troubles these days, and none of it connected with the government’s recent decision to increase taxes on oil and gas companies operating in the North Sea.

Nope. Huhne is facing an altogether different sea of troubles following disclosures by his ex-wife, Vicky Pryce, that that he persuaded her to accept speeding penalty points on his behalf in order to escape a suspended driver’s license.

As a result of the disclosures, police in the county of Essex – where the speeding violation took place – plan to interview Huhne this week – an interview that could result in criminal charges, according to press reports.

At the very least, the allegations now being raised call into question Mr Huhne’s tenure as energy secretary. At their worst, the allegations could lead to charges that Mr Huhne perverted the course of justice.

Either way, even as his colleagues in government are now distancing themselves from Huhne, other observers are suggesting that he should resign his position or face being fired.

Needless to say, opposition politicians are seeking to reap maximum political hay out of Mr Huhne’s difficulties.

Shadow Cabinet Office minister Tessa Jowell, a member of the opposition Labour Party, said that the UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron, a Conservative, should set up an independent investigation to establish what had happened.

"That is what the Prime Minister should be doing," she said. "He should be getting a proper investigation independently to establish what the facts were and in the light of the facts decide the best course of action."

Michael Fallon, the deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, the LibDem’s partners in the UK’s coalition government, said Huhne’s presence in the Cabinet while under investigation by police represented a “problem” for the government.

“He hasn’t been charged with anything,” Fallon said, but noted that, “What’s important is that we wait until any minister has been charged; when they’re charged then obviously it’s right that they should have to step aside.”

Foreign Secretary William Hague, also a Conservative, underlined that view.

Asked whether Huhne should resign, Hague replied: "In the media, those things are being questioned, but the police are looking into it and so what can we do? We have to let that process take place. It's his decision."

But others are less charitable.

“There is blood in the water and the sharks are circling. So far Huhne has failed to deny the allegations in full, he has only said that the allegations are incorrect. The story just does not stack up,” a senior Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament told The Daily Telegraph.

Thus, the stage is set.

"However good Huhne is as energy secretary, it will be overshadowed by the continuing coverage of his private life," said Simon McGrath, who runs a popular Facebook page for Huhne’s party, the Liberal Democrats.

McGrath wants Huhne to resign.

"If he chooses not to do this then Clegg should show that he will put the interests of the Party first and fire him," said McGrath, referring to the leader of Liberal Democrats, Nicholas Clegg.

As for Huhne, he says: “I have been very clear that I deny these allegations and I stand by that absolutely.”

Meanwhile, about those North Sea taxes...

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