Friday, December 14, 2007

LOL's Dilemma: Godson Investigation or Huhne Mystery?

Now then, now then. Let's see. Something about Dean Godson's propaganda operation at Policy Exchange? And its precursors? Or begin with a follow up on the mysterious case of Chris Huhne and the anonymous blogger? Can't decide. But while I'm thinking on this what follows is the full and unabridged contents of a Word file which reached me today:

(Private Eye was first to report on this - back in 1983!!!)

Liberal-Democrats who wish to avoid having a leader who has a denouement similar to Charles Kennedy and Ming Campbell - in which his ostensible friends come at him with daggers drawn - might be wise to bear in mind the deep esteem in which Chris Huhne was held by his former colleagues.

When Huhne was a young economics columnist on The Guardian in the early '80's, he decided to run for parliament in Reading East as the SDP candidate during the 1983 general election. This was in the early days of the Liberal-SDP pact and a battle was raging during the campaign as to whether an electorally-successful Alliance should be led by the Liberal Party’s David Steel or the SDP’s Roy Jenkins. A large stir was caused on the Sunday before the election when Huhne became the first Alliance candidate to publicly call for the Liberal Party leader to declare in advance that he would defer to the SDP's Jenkins. A clear breach of the unity that the Alliance had been striving for. Repercussions carried on all day in Alliance circles until it was finally discovered that Huhne had NOT called for Steel to defer. It was a hoax press release and Huhne had been the victim of a dirty trick - designed to embarrass him with both Liberal and SDP leaders.

At first the dirty trick was thought to be the work of Conservatives trying to make mischief within the Alliance – and who had picked on Huhne as the patsy because of his reputation as a glib opportunist. Others thought that it was the work of SDP Party activists who disliked Huhne’s smarter-than-thou smugness. But it was the Eye that revealed that it was actually the work of the people who knew Huhne best - his colleagues at the Guardian.

As the Eye reported in its next issue (Eye 561 - 17th June 1983) - what gave the game away was the way the national dailies covered the story and its embarrassing details. Most of the papers gave the hoax scant reportage. The one paper that gave the story sizable coverage - and caused Huhne great embarrassment - was his own paper. The deep love and affection felt for Huhne by his Guardian colleagues - who cherished his modesty and humility was such that they alone of the nationals pumped the story up to large dimensions. When the unsuccessful Huhne (he was routed in the election) returned to the Guardian it was to a paper where he knew he was surrounded by enemies. The dislike for Huhne continue unabated until he finally took the hint and left to work for the Independent.


Left Lib said...

Back in 1983 the Guardian had journalists who were in the SDP, Liberal party and Labour. Given the nature of the Labour party back then, it is no surprise that some of his colleagues would want to play this dirty trick on Chris Huhne.
It is hardly a revelation, and it seems absurd that Chris Huhne should be blamed when he was the victim of the behavoir of unscrupulous colleagues.

Anonymous said...

Left-Lib - I'm sure you are right that Guardian staff members (including some who were not journalists) would have been of varying political stripes back in those days. But despite political differences, there is usually a modicum of comity among colleagues, especially for a respected journalist, that would preclude a trick that was that vicious. What this post seems to say is that Huhne's personality provoked the attack on him by people who disliked him personally not politically. So the question becomes is there any evidence that people at his later jobs held him in affection or did they feel about him the same way as his Guardian co-workers apparently did?

Left Lib said...

Peter Wilby of the New Statesman and a former colleague was happy to endorse Chris Huhne in the 2006 leadership contest. Peter Wilby is nonetheless a Labour supporter.
On the other point, it is nice to think that people with different political opinions could happily get along as colleagues, but do not underestimate the loathing of the Labour Left towards the SDP in 1983.
There are a number of possible motives as to why Chris Huhne was victimised in the way that he was. The Private Eye decided to report one motive and offered no supporting evidence in doing so. I would suggest that if someone was prepared to resort to such a dirty trick, then that says more about their own personality defects than it does about Chris Huhne's.