Two more Lib Dems quit PoliticsHome panel

by Stephen Tall on September 30, 2009

I blogged at the weekend about the resignations of three Lib Dem MPs – Nick Clegg, Vince Cable and Lynne Featherstone – from the PoliticsHome ‘insiders’ panel’, the PH100, in protest at the acquisition by Tory deputy chairman Lord Ashcroft of a majority stake in the site.

Today I’ve hear from an impecable source that another Lib Dem MP – not previously publicly listed as a member of the PH100 – has also quit: Chris Huhne. The only other Lib Dem MP publicly listed as a PH100 member is David Laws, and I’ve not yet heard if he’s resigned.

The second Lib Dem to resign from the panel is, erm, me.

Yes, I know on Sunday I said I’d wait and see, didn’t want to judge an organisation on the basis of presumption of guilt, etc etc. But the problem is:

(1) I think the credibility of the PH100 is now so compromised – even if it retains balance, it no longer can boast so many senior Labour and Lib Dem representatives – that it’s lost its distinctiveness; and

(2) though I don’t doubt the good faith of PoliticsHome’s other shareholder Stephan Shakespeare, nor its Managing Director, Freddie Sayers, inevitably the association with Lord Ashcroft will taint the site’s integrity in the eyes of many. This will either prove to be justified, as PoliticsHome subtly shifts its content a little more right-of-centre, or sidelines reporters’ exposes of dodgy political donations from tax exiles; or prove to be unjustified, with PoliticsHome bending over backwards to prove its independence from Lord Ashcroft. In either eventuality, the objectivity of the site – its defining USP – and one which depends entirely on cross-party trust, is compromised and diminished.

It’s a shame. The PH100 was an interesting experiment (if occasionally a little bit up its own self-referentialness). But what significance it had rested on the fact that it extended across the political divides and right up to the most senior levels of government, media, wonkery etc. But that was killed the moment the site was bought up by such a controversial and partisan figure as Lord Ashcroft.

Update: I understand from PoliticsHome that Chris Huhne was never a member of the PH100 panel, though he has resigned from it – which is rather intriguing!