Jeremy Hunt: I disagree with him, but why shouldn’t he give his view?

by Stephen Tall on October 6, 2012

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt is at the centre of a new row this morning after giving an interview to The Times in which he said his personal view is that the legal abortion limit should be cut to 12 weeks. Here’s how the Telegraph reports it:

“Everyone looks at the evidence and comes to a view about when they think that moment is, and my own view is that 12 weeks is the right point for it,” Mr Hunt told The Times. … “It’s just my view about that incredibly difficult question about the moment that we should deem life to start. I don’t think the reason I have that view is for religious reasons.”

Jeremy Hunt’s views shouldn’t really come as a surprise to anyone — he voted for a 12-week limit when the issue was last debated in 2008 — so I’m confused why anyone thinks we should respect him less for sticking to his beliefs. They’re not beliefs I share. But that’s not the point. He was asked a question by a journalist, answered it honestly, made it clear this wasn’t government policy. As the Telegraph went on to report:

Aides to Mr Hunt last night stressed that he was expressing a personal view and not signalling any change in Government policy. There are no plans to trigger a vote on abortion laws, they said. Mr Hunt is “one of 646 MPs expressing his personal opinions – there is no new policy here,” said a source.

I understand that people will disagree with Jeremy Hunt’s view on abortion, and some will disagree strongly. But I really don’t get what they think he should have said or done differently when asked a straight question about his own personal views. Unless you think British politics will be the better for MPs suppressing their own beliefs, that is.

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum, and also writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.