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Expert Comment: The Chris Huhne affair

Big ben Wednesday 6 February 2013

Professor Bill Jones from Hope's Department of Politics, History, Media and Communications, looks at the Chris Huhne affair, and its implications for the coalition.

The Chris Huhne affair is compelling in a number of ways. Firstly as a story many can relate to; any chat with strangers in pubs will elicit examples of partners assuming the blame and taking the speeding points. Why? because often the ticket arrives addressed to the registered owner while many couples swap driving duties freely and often points are held by one partner and not to the other.

Also the divorce and 'no fury like a woman scorned' elements to the story give it real tabloid and popular purchase. Even though it's a story of foolish and selfish behaviour it's got passion and tragedy woven into it. The published text exchanges between Huhne and his youngest son, Peter, were truly revealing as well as poignant.

The implications politically are no less compelling. Firstly the Lib Dems have lost a heavyweight politician. Huhne was a talented minister and one with the self confidence to stand up to the Tories in Cabinet. He will be sorely missed.

Secondly the by-election in Eastleigh will be fascinating. It will be the first one featuring the coalition parties and both will be desperate to win the seat. The Lib Dems are strong on the ground and have many councillors but the Tories will pull out all the stops. Labour might well urge its small following in Eastleigh to vote tactically for the Lib Dems.

Finally the outcome of the by-election will provide an early pointer to what may happen in May 2015.

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