Nick is right on Jeremy Hunt: this is a Tory failure to self-regulate, so let them stew

by Stephen Tall on June 13, 2012

Should the Lib Dems join forces with Labour and vote to censure Jeremy Hunt? That’s the question troubling my party today. When the Lib Dems were in opposition this would’ve been a no-brainer — in fact, we’d probably have tabled the Commons motion, perhaps also pointing out Labour’s near-equal culpability in entrenching the fading Murdoch Empire.

But we’re not in opposition now, we’re in government. Like it or not, that changes the Lib Dem considerations. And this is my 3-point hierarchical list of considerations:

    1. David Cameron should have referred Jeremy Hunt to the independent adviser on the ministerial code, Sir Alex Allan. The appointment, accountability and dismissal of Tory cabinet members is a matter entirely for the Prime Minister.

    2. Jeremy Hunt, when David Cameron failed in his duty, should have taken the smart and proper approach, and referred himself to clear his name and reputation. Even if he survives today’s Commons motion, it’s hard to see him surviving much past the Olympics in the cabinet.

    3. The failure of the Tories to self-regulate their own ministers should not overly concern the Lib Dems. This is a Tory problem, not a Lib Dem problem. If the Tories want to give themselves ample rope to tie themselves in knots, we should as good liberals allow them such freedom.

‘But doesn’t abstaining make us just as bad as the Tories?’ my colleagues anxiously ask. No, it doesn’t. Just as the Tory decision to cut the top-rate tax from 50p to 45p — didn’t that work out well for them? — was not a Lib Dem priority, neither is the fate of Jeremy Hunt. We should conserve our energies and furrowed brows for issues that matter to folk beyond SW1.

In any case, let’s just imagine the Lib Dems did vote with Labour today. What would happen? Nothing. David Cameron would still not refer Jeremy Hunt to Sir Alex Allan. I don’t see the point of the Lib Dems spending political capital best saved for the policy fights to come on trying to do the Tories a good turn by saving them from themselves.

And if by some miracle Jeremy Hunt was forced to resign as a result of the Lib Dems voting with Labour — well, Mr Hunt would enjoy martyred status among his colleagues (‘the Tory brought down by Lib Dem opportunism’), and he’d simply be replaced by another Conservative. Sorry if I fail to get overly excited by that prospect.

There’s an American management expression that refers to “the monkey on your back”. In essence it means not allowing those you work with to dump their problems with you, and walk away from them. I see no reason for Nick Clegg to accept the monkey that is Jeremy Hunt from off David Cameron’s back. “Make sure that subordinates leave your office with the monkeys that they brought in!” goes the advice. I’m glad Nick’s following it.

16 comments

New from me > Nick is right on Jeremy Hunt: this is a Tory failure to self-regulate, so let them stew – http://t.co/1s6Xi7Cg

by Stephen Tall on June 13, 2012 at 7:22 am. Reply #

New from me > Nick is right on Jeremy Hunt: this is a Tory failure to self-regulate, so let them stew – http://t.co/1s6Xi7Cg

by libdemvoice on June 13, 2012 at 7:30 am. Reply #

New from me > Nick is right on Jeremy Hunt: this is a Tory failure to self-regulate, so let them stew – http://t.co/80kTpnd8

by Stephen Tall on June 13, 2012 at 9:22 am. Reply #

New from me > Nick is right on Jeremy Hunt: this is a Tory failure to self-regulate, so let them stew – http://t.co/80kTpnd8

by Caron Lindsay on June 13, 2012 at 9:22 am. Reply #

Sorry Stephen – I cannot agree with you.

Nick Clegg has served up the worst of all worlds with this solution. Why?

1) It will forever allow Labour to portray the Lib Dems as in Tory pockets, scared to vote against them. As if they needed more ammunition on this.

2) Coalition so far has been about Nick Clegg painting a picture of utter solidarity with the Tories. In the mind of the electorate, this has stuck. You cannot now simply portray the problems he doesn’t want as Tory problems and the solutions the Coalition has found as Lib Dem answers. It doesn’t wash.

3) To claim “it’s pointless to do anything because nothing will change” strikes me as an absolute denial of the issue. If that were true, 90% of bills put before the House wouldn’t attract votes from any side.

To my mind, this all links back to Nick’s huge strategic error on entering Coalition of painting it as two parties intertwined. No other Country runs coalition like this. In Germany for example, a country I lived in for 3 years, Coalition means parties taking ownership of individual Ministeries and running them to their own agenda; not voting together on every single issue.

It will be the error that defines Nick’s career.

by Cuse on June 13, 2012 at 9:22 am. Reply #

[...] Stephen Tall, though, says that we should conserve our energy for policy fights and leave the Tories to deal [...]

by Jo Swinson: there are questions to be answered over Jeremy Hunt on June 13, 2012 at 10:10 am. Reply #

Completely undermining the argument in my latest blogpost, @stephentall puts the case for abstaining on the Hunt vote http://t.co/djy3MwWt

by Lon Won on June 13, 2012 at 10:10 am. Reply #

Completely undermining the argument in my latest blogpost, @stephentall puts the case for abstaining on the Hunt vote http://t.co/djy3MwWt

by Stephen Tall on June 13, 2012 at 10:11 am. Reply #

Nick is right on Jeremy Hunt. We should concern ouselves with policy. | http://t.co/e6xosgkW http://t.co/cItRLvHD via @stephentall

by Jessica Sproxton on June 13, 2012 at 10:51 am. Reply #


The appointment, accountability and dismissal of Tory cabinet members is a matter entirely for the Prime Minister.

And the appointment, accountability and dismissal of LibDem cabinet ministers is … ?

Are you telling me that the resignation of Vince Cable from dealing with Murdoch’s business demands was entirely an internal LibDem issue? I don’t recall it being treated as such.

by Matthew Huntbach on June 13, 2012 at 12:16 pm. Reply #

@ Matthew Huntbach

As far as I can recall, it was always made clear that while the ultimate accountability for the hiring/firing of Lib Dem ministers would remain constitutionally the PM’s, this would always happen in consultation with Nick Clegg, who in practice would make the decision.

by Stephen Tall on June 13, 2012 at 12:27 pm. Reply #

New from me > Nick is right on Jeremy Hunt: this is a Tory failure to self-regulate, so let them stew – http://t.co/nLF55L3A

by Stephen Tall on June 13, 2012 at 12:54 pm. Reply #

New from me > Nick is right on Jeremy Hunt: this is a Tory failure to self-regulate, so let them stew – http://t.co/nLF55L3A

by Fernando North on June 13, 2012 at 12:58 pm. Reply #

The Lib Dem’s “protest” is always just enough for the Conservatives to win the vote. They know the Conservatives have a majority when you remove Lib Dem MPs. Abstaining is the same as voting for, in those circumstances

Useful idiots is the term, I believe

by Chris on June 13, 2012 at 1:44 pm. Reply #

New from me > Nick is right on Jeremy Hunt: this is a Tory failure to self-regulate, so let them stew – http://t.co/6W2nM7YV

by Stephen Tall on June 13, 2012 at 6:33 pm. Reply #

[...] were happily falling over each other in the rush to proclaim what a good idea abstaining was (see here for an example) while more ordinary people I know were completely baffled by the decision, not [...]

by What You Can Get Away With (Nick Barlow's blog) » Blog Archive » It’s all in the game on June 14, 2012 at 8:14 am. Reply #

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