I am delighted to hear of the resignation of the former energy secretary, Chris Huhne, one of the most repulsive creatures in British politics. His allegedly “green” policies have already led to a large rise in fuel bills for all households. How is it right for the government to be adopting policies designed to push up our basic living costs? I cannot see that as anything other than an abuse of power.
The Daily Mail reported in November that each household pays £89 a year for the shift to wind and solar energy, and that this would rise to £280 a year by 2010. However, Huhne claimed this would lead to a large reduction in energy bills on the assumption that households would be afraid to turn the electricity or gas on!
His policies also included plans to spend £11bn on smart meters that would allow consumers to monitor their electricity use. But £11bn could fuel a hefty tax cut—it could halve the council tax bill—and I would like to switch on the light and the heating whenever I need them, without checking my smart meter to monitor my usage.
Chris Huhne also claimed that people were responsible for their own soaring energy bills, as they failed to shop round for cheaper energy supplies. More energy was spent, he said, in comparing prices for a £25 toaster. Yet there is little difference between the prices offered by energy suppliers—we are talking about a marginal difference, at best—as wholesale prices of oil and gas are the key determinant of energy prices, and so the best way to keep bills down is to stop levying green taxes—and in particular to stop giving vast sums to landowners who disfigure their properties by allowing the installation of unsightly windfarms producing expensive energy.
The environmental nonsense has not been quashed, but few libertarians will shed a tear for the likes of Huhne. We are in an economic downturn, and this is really not the ideal time to be introducing higher taxes on energy: Huhne’s policies threatened to stall any recovery of the British economy.
Curiously enough, however, Huhne has a large carbon “footprint”. What genuine environmentalist would need eight homes? In January 2012, he bought his eighth home, in London, for £1.3m. Ironically, Huhne’s party, the badly named Liberal Democrats, want a “mansion tax” on homes over £2m. Clearly, Huhne’s latest property purchase would escape any such tax, and his party is not calling for the tax to be levied on property portfolios as a whole, such as Huhne’s string of homes. His new home is close to Farringdon Station in London, where property values are expected to rise in line with progress on the Crossrail transport project. This man clearly lives a luxurious lifestyle, funded by the £80,000 a year in rental income from his properties. True, he will lose his ministerial salary, but will get an outrageous £17,207 “severance payment”. The existence of severance payments for ministers, under a law passed by the Conservatives in 1991, is a national scandal, as it makes the possession of a ministerial career a right and not a privilege. I would like to see the receipt of such severance payments outlawed, and all living recipients prosecuted retrospectively for embezzling state funds.
Finally, there is the matter of Huhne’s private life. It is his private life that has brought him down, after his former wife told the media that he had made her falsely claim to have been behind the wheel of a speeding car so that he did not get points on his driving licence. As his wife was in central London, miles away from where the speeding car was at the time, I think there is little likelihood that Huhne’s attempt to prove his “innocence” of charges of perverting the course of justice will be successful, although I am more than a little surprised that the Crown Prosecution Service has allowed the charges to go ahead, as the CPS has a record of politically influenced decisions that could themselves be seen as administrative decisions that pervert the course of justice!
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned! I applaud the decision of Mrs Huhne (aka Vicky Pryce) to bring her husband to book. After 26 years of marriage and three children, he left his wife for a bisexual colleague working in his office, a woman of such supreme ugliness that she looks like a walking advert for transsexualism. It is often claimed that politics and morality have nothing in common with each other and should not influence each other. I disagree. Had Huhne simply lived with Vicky Pryce and owed her nothing, never having married her or fathered children by her, I would agree that his private life was his own business. But I would also like to see the old culture back, where it was simply unacceptable to announce that a marriage “was being dissolved”. Dissolved by whom? Marriage is “till death do us part”, and no judge can remove the solemnity of the marriage vow. Once the vow is made, it is irrevocable. And unmarried couples who have children together can be considered to be in a common-law marriage, under the arrangements that obtained in England before the Reformation.
I am sure many libertarians will carp that Huhne should be free to conduct his private life as he sees fit. Yet marriage, as a lifelong contract, is a decision that a man is free to enter into or not, as he sees fit. There are many business contracts, investments or even property purchases the terms of which are later seen as suboptimal, but which cannot be opted out of. Why should marriage be any different? If you don’t wish to be bound to someone for life, why get married? A vow cannot be nullified by anyone, not even a judge. It is worth noting that J S Mill was reluctant to publicly call for the right to divorce, although he is believed to have privately supported divorce—but he lived in an age where cohabitation without marriage was frowned upon. In the modern age, a failed marriage, or no marriage at all, is no barrier to moving on and living with someone else, and so the decision to enter into a specific lifelong marriage vow need not be one that a libertarian should seek to unpick, any more than any other contractual relationship.
There is no way that I, as prime minister, would allow a minister to remain in his job while leaving or divorcing his wife, or behaving in a manner that leads to a divorce suit from the other side. We have become a demoralised society, where bad behaviour is now standard. Vicky Pryce, after having endured this creep for 26 years of marriage, and having borne three children to this creep, deserves a good pay-off, although the Independent noted recently that details of the divorce settlement were not known. It is incredibly demeaning after years of marriage to see her husband show her the door and take up with an ugly bisexual woman, and as a supporter of the lifelong, indissoluble bond of marriage I can only hope she has taken more her pound of flesh.