It is unusual for the police to press the Crown Prosecution Service to go ahead and charge a Minister of the Crown. But this is what they have done with the Energy Secretary, Chris Huhne. It is encouraging, too, that they insist they have enough evidence also to proceed against his wife who, allegedly, took his speeding points. I have no doubt that were the matter not to concern two high profile figures – Vicky Pryce, Huhne’s estranged wife and a leading media economist – a decision would have been made many months ago.
What the people of our fair-minded country have always insisted on down the centuries is even-handed justice. I venture to suggest that if the CPS do not decide to press charges there will be a storm of protest. In that event David Cameron could expect a very rough ride at Prime Minister’s Question Time in the House of Commons.
One could begin to understand the government’s reticence if Chris Huhne were a popular figure, doing a good job at his ministry – as Dr Liam Fox was at Defence – but Huhne is widely despised at Westminster and beyond. He gains no brownie points either by insisting that the country has 3,500 wind turbines foisted on it at huge public expense, in denial in the face of the mountain of evidence which shows that they are not cost effective. Desecrating some of our prettiest landscapes seems of no account to him.
The country has not forgotten, either, that here is a man who spent his life rubbishing nuclear power, only to experience a Damascene conversion all of a sudden when he gets his ministerial chauffeur-driven car and realises that there is no way the country can keep the lights on as well as meet its environmental commitments without it.
As for the police recommending that Huhne be brought to book, the government – which might not wish for a third ministerial resignation since, in Oscar Wilde’s immortal words, it will start to look ‘careless’ – should tread carefully. After all, it certainly did itself no favours by refusing to comply with the law of the land by denying an inquest into the suspicious death of Dr David Kelly, the arms inspector. When 19 eminent medics say that Kelly could not have died in the way the government claims he did, then we should be worried – especially when they point out that the inquiry into his death failed to address a series of important unanswered questions. The public smelled a rat most definitely when it later learned that a 70-year gagging order had been slapped on the proceedings. It was the first time in British jurisprudence that an inquest was refused.
This matter has not gone away, so if the government/CPS thinks it can again, within months, insult the intelligence of the British people by saying that there is not enough evidence to prosecute the Energy Secretary, then it had better think again.
I never cease to be amazed by the foolishness of clever men. And I’m not only talking about Conservative posterboy Dr. Liam Fox, the ex Defence Secretary. I could equally be talking about the previous head of the IMF, Dominique Strauss Kahn, and so many, many more public figures.
Our own Prime Minister – a public relations man, would you believe – is not above his own share of foolishness: cycling to work to show his green credentials with the ministerial car carrying his papers following; trying, in these immensely straightened times, to get his personal photographer on to the public payroll; and taking on the editor of the now defunct News of the World against all the advice of people who knew better. These, and other things, perhaps, explain his tolerance of the bizarre goings on of a man he was not particularly fond of.
Are we not entitled, therefore, to suspect that throughout the Westminster Village there is so much foolishness and taking-the-public-for-a-ride-is-OK-as-long-as-you-don’t-get-caught that were we to know the full extent of it all we would throw up our arms in horror and think the expenses scandal a small matter? My own feeling is that while there are still many good and true men in politics and the public service, the dross which rises to the surface is only the tip of a very nasty and deep iceberg.
And in this matter of getting to hear about what we do, imagine how little we would know were it not for an untrammelled press. If this knee-jerk demand of Cameron’s for an inquiry into the press results in the shackles being applied, we will all be the poorer and frighteningly exposed. The rich and powerful will be licensed to do virtually as they please.
The Prime Minister wasn’t so keen on an inquiry into MPs’ expenses (in fact we didn’t get one) and many suspect that the political class see this as payback time since it was the press which rumbled them and took them to task. There is a tremendous urge to protect their own and this crosses party divides.
Why, when 19 distinguished doctors declared their dissatisfaction with the findings of the weapons inspector Dr. David Kelly’s mysterious death did we not get a proper post mortem as the law says we should have done? It took a decade of never ending pressure to get one for Diana. But this ‘transparency, transparency, transparency’ government will still not match its words with deeds where Dr. Kelly is concerned. Are they protecting someone or something? But that unusual gagging order does at least mean that we will eventually get answers. Pity though we have to wait 70 years when everyone concerned is dead. Nice one, don’t you think?
And while we’re talking about protecting their own, why is it that the CPS is taking so very long to decide whether there is a case to answer in the matter of whether the Energy Secretary got his wife to take his speeding points? I would have thought that what with her not having wings to get her to the place where the incident occurred, and a telephone recording of their own son allegedly urging his father to come clean – plus all the other circumstantial evidence – makes for what should be an easy and quick case for the CPS to decide.
The surprising thing is that the immensely unlikeable and oily Chris Huhne is widely hated across all classes, political included. But it may be that a second ministerial resignation from the LibDems (remember David Laws?) would rock the Coalition boat too much. And now with Fox gone, that would be a third cabinet member gone in only 17 months. Not good! Watch this space! We will see if the CPS is truly independent or is prepared to do its master’s bidding. Don’t forget if they charge Hughne they must also charge his two timed, angrily estranged Greek economist wife for aiding and abetting as well as perjury. What a mess! But at least is has the potential, briefly, to distract us from our present woes.
Moving on from the subject of our esteemed rulers, I think the thing that concerns all of us most is what is going to become of our economy and jobs. OK, the years of New Labour’s ‘Cool Britannia’, throwing away a golden economic inheritance, are, happily, now behind us. However, the malign hole that it dug for us is still deep. But at least we’ve chucked out the diggers and have stopped mining. And we’re trying our damnedest to climb out of it.
We’ve already done a lot of the necessary things, including recapitalised – at horrifying public expense – the banks and we’re now the Market’s good boy with stars to prove it. They see us as the one and only reformed sinner and predict a happy ending for us. But how do we see ourselves? All the signs are that we’ve talked ourselves into such a doom and gloom mindset that the prognosis is in danger of becoming self-fulfilling.
So much of life and business is perception. In fact, there are as many, if not more, positive signs as there are negative, unlike in most of the rest of the developed world. But you wouldn’t think so listening to the Jeremiahs all around us.
Unemployment at 7.1 % is two whole percentage points below the US and light-years below poor Spain’s 20%. And it is below the EU’s average. Big business is awash with cash if only it could be persuaded to invest it. But there’s the rub: it won’t if it believes that people are too frightened to spend.
All this talk comparing the situation to that of the 1930s must be shown to be the nonsense that it is. Just look at the condition of the Jarrow Marchers. The poorest in the land live like kings compared to them! We must chill out, as the young people say, and start to believe in ourselves. And start spending! If you don’t spend, the bosses will hold back their investments until you do. And if you still refuse then you can whistle goodbye to any growth to pay down our debt and create new jobs. We’ll be flat lining till the end of time. And we might even push things into deflation as the bosses seek to maintain profits with ever greater productivity (i.e. even fewer jobs). Then we’d really have something to complain about, like owning house having halved in value in less than a decade and still stuck with the original mortgage!
After nothing but a succession of body blows, casino banking, mountainous debts and corruption in high places, we can be forgiven for not being in the jolliest of moods. But cheer up! Next year the feel good factor will return big time, at least for Great Britain. We will be truly great again, if only fleetingly, with the double whammy of the Olympics and the Diamond Jubilee. Perhaps then we will start spending.