Tue Jun 12th, 2012 at 09:05:50 PM EST
A question maybe posted in exasperation, but tonight one that needs asking.
Last Thursday Jeremy Hunt appeared before Lord Justice Leveson. At best his evidence could be characterised as being poor, and in the morning he dealt with the inquiry's lawyer about as effectively as Lembit Opik dealt with a professional wrestler. In the afternoon, the inquiry seemed to go much softer on him, either out of sheer embarrassment that they were going to end up with a government minister in tears in the room if they carried on, or because he was already shredded, and so they just put together details for the final report and to put together information for Cameron's questioning next week.
Within thirty minutes of this terrible performance, Downing Street had managed to put together a statement saying what a wonderful chap young Jeremy was and how the Prime Minister couldn't see anything that he'd done wrong at all, to general shock.
Lawyers who have been observing this whole affair are absolutely amazed, saying that with the Hunt situation, if the deal had been Ok'd then it would inevitably have been overturned by judicial review, returned to the government for another look, and Hunt would have been banned from any part of the decision as being irredeemably tainted.
Having Cameron place the Coalition in this position and with several Tory MPs having claimed how wonderful his performance had been, Labour saw an opportunity. As Cameron was not referring Hunt to the independent assessor, the party used one of their slots in parliamentary business to demand a vote on whether parliament itself should itself refer him.
Tonight Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems have come out with their party position on the upcoming vote. It is now party position to abstain. This is the most ludicrous position possible.
BBC News - BSkyB bid row: Lib Dems to abstain in Commons vote on Jeremy Hunt
Lib Dem MPs are to abstain in a Commons vote on Wednesday calling for an investigation into whether Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has broken the ministerial code of conduct.
Labour want his handling of News Corp's BSkyB bid referred to David Cameron's adviser on ministerial interests.
The BBC's Nick Robinson said Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg had told a meeting of his MPs and peers not to "support the Tories on this one" and "to stay away".
Mr Cameron has fully backed Mr Hunt.
Without the Lib Dems' votes, the vote is condemned to failure, unless there is a significant backbench rebellion from within the Tory party. The Tories having 306 seats and without the Lib Dems, the opposition only totals 281 seats.
The logic of this is utterly bizarre. Either they think Mr Hunt's evidence and position was correct, or there are more questions to ask. If Mr Hunt's position is correct, then you need to vote to support Mr Hunt. If you think he was utterly wrong, or if you think there is more investigation needed, then you vote to refer him to the independent assessor.
An abstention is absolutely the worst position to take. To those who oppose Hunt and Cameron, it looks like you are preventing the vote against from succeeding but don't have the guts to vote for Hunt. By not voting against Hunt, you may as well be voting for Hunt. To those supporting Hunt and Cameron, you are taking political advantage by sounding annoyed about the situation without actually having to take any activity to back your position up.
Is this not the worst of both worlds? Showing yourself and your party up as having no morals, just a vapid desire to cling to power? Now it could be said that any vote against is playing into the hands of the Labour Party, but surely someone inside the parliamentary Lib Dem party must have asked themselves how this is going to look to the voters? and surely someone there must have come to the conclusion that it can't come out in any way that looks good.
From outside this looks like a betrayal of both democracy and parliamentary government.