The Huhne-Oakeshott two-step

Over the weekend we saw two stories, two prominent Liberal Democrats, two public staking out of positions on issues that are the subject of much debate within the coalition in Whitehall:

David Cameron was warned yesterday by a senior Lib Dem not to delay the introduction of legislation banning non-doms from making donations to political parties in Britain. In a sign of strains within the coalition, Treasury spokesman Lord Oakeshott said there was “absolutely no reason” to delay the legislation. [The Guardian]


Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat energy secretary, reiterated his party’s strong opposition to retaining a policy that he had previously condemned as “Kafkaesque”. The words potentially put Mr Huhne and his Lib Dem colleagues on a collision course with Theresa May, Home Secretary, and Whitehall security officials, who are close to concluding a review expected to recommend retaining the power to impose control orders on national security grounds. [Financial Times]

It would be tempting, but wrong, to read too much significance into the fact that two such close political allies chose similar times to speak out in opposition to what some Conservatives want the government to do. However, that they both did speak out is an external sign of the internal thinking that is going on over moving somewhat away from the ‘always love in public all the coalition does’ approach taken until now.

(Another observation on the control orders question – as with student tuition fees, it does illustrate the problem of setting up a review when the real issue is not one of details but of beliefs. Reviews to sort out the details when the overall course has been determined often work very well, but reviews where there is fundamental disagreement over direction in policy just put off the inevitable disagreement.)

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