Posts Tagged ‘political system’

What Chris Huhne’s departure tells us about British politics

06/02/2012, 01:00:05 PM

by Rob Marchant

So, Chris Huhne has left the cabinet. Entire forests have already been destroyed over the interceding months, since the story broke about the speeding points allegedly taken for him by his wife. He will now be charged and is innocent until proven guilty: that is the fair play to which he is entitled.

We will never know – or at least, not for a while – whether Huhne genuinely went willingly, or was pressured to resign to avoid being sacked. But we’re also in new territory entirely: this is the first time a cabinet minister has been charged with a criminal offence in as long as anyone can remember, no-one quite knows what the rules are. And here’s a thing, which some have questioned: would it be right for a cabinet minister to have been made to go under such circumstances, given that he has not, as yet, been convicted of anything at all?

Yes, it is. Because this is not a parking fine. It’s a criminal charge, and criminal charges have to be taken seriously. Here’s what can happen when you don’t.

Mariano Rajoy, now Spanish prime minister, was last year in a similar position to Cameron and Clegg. But his judgement was another: that he was happy to let one of his party’s main figures, Francisco Camps, stay in post after being charged with a criminal offence. Although Camps later changed his mind and resigned anyway, the point was that, not being able to tell whether he was innocent or guilty, Rajoy had bet his party’s reputation on Camps. He lost.


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