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'An influential activist' - The Guardian

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You are a tinker...' - Tim Farron

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Here's an unpopular point of view. Chris Huhne was right to take the severance cash on offer.

Like apparently everyone else, when I first heard Chris Huhne had taken the £17000 severance pay after stepping down from the cabinet, I thought this seemed quite wrong.

But on reflection - I think he was right to take the money. Here's why.

Firstly, Chris is innocent. Certainly in the eyes of the law. and more to the point - in his own eyes. He has consistently said that he is innocent of the charges laid against him from the word go and is sticking with that position.

In these circumstances, if he has indeed been wrongly accused, then why shouldn't he claim the money? If he is subsequently found to be guilty, that's quite a different matter, and I think he should pay the money back pronto. But as things stand, if he truly is an innocent man, wrongly accused, who can blame him for taking the money every other cabinet minister forced to resign takes?

Secondly, the argument has been put forward that he should get nothing if found guilty, and his job back if found innocent. This would effectively mean he has been suspended from the cabinet. But how can that be fair? He isn't being paid as a cabinet minister anymore - normally employees in these circumstances are suspended on full pay. No one made that offer to Chris. So again he should take the severance. Similarly, how can he possibly be given his old job if he is found innocent? Ed Davey has been given it - and surely no one is suggesting he, nor any other member of the cabinet, should be fired to make room for Chris if the courts find in his favour?

A third argument runs that Chris wasn't made redundant, he resigned of his own volition, so how can he be eligible for any payment. But I think its generally the received wisdom that Chris didn't want to resign - he wanted to continue until the courts had their say, and others made the decision that he had to resign for him - or be sacked. In these circumstances, being forced to resign to save the blushes of the government is a very different matter from resigning from a normal job.

Finally, I have seen it said that Chris is a millionaire and in these austere times it's wrong for anyone that rich to take the cash? Really? So what now - employment rights extend to everyone bar anyone who has a certain level of wealth. Are we proposing means testing employment rights now? Surely no Liberal can give that view any credence?

If Chris is found guilty he has a moral responsibility to return the cash. But as things stand today - I can see only reasons why he was quite right to take it.


  1. The difference is though that most people who are suspended from a job do not have a second job that earns them over £60,000 a year.

  2. True. But I go back to point 4. Do employment laws not apply to rich people? I think that's a dangerous road to go down...

  3. So Hester was wrong to refuse his bonus.

  4. His is arguably a special case. I find it hard to see why Liam Fox and other Ministers dismissed should receive this money, and the same with Ministers voted out of office by the public. The law needs to be changed.

  5. Whilst I agree with pretty much everything you've said in this post and I don't think there is anything wrong in principle with taking the money, I think it wasn't very politically astute of Chris to do it. I'm actually surprised that he decided taking it was a good move as he normally has better political antennae than that. Surely he would know that it would go down very badly with the public.

  6. cjcjc - well bit of a minority of one on this, but I do think the mistake on Hester was the contract he was given, not the bonus itself. I don't think he should have been put in the position he was. I do wonder, does a bloke on a million a year really need a bonus - but again I refer you to the 'the law applies to all' route..

    Adam - agreed

    Anon - yes. Not necessarily the actions of a man who, whatever the result of the court case, thinks he can get back into the cabinet anytime soon.

  7. It'll be even worse if he's found guilty. Then he'll have been wrongly sacked from Cabinet and wrongly found guilty. He should keep the money as compensation (unless there's some legal argument that convinced him he actually is guilty).