Wednesday 29 February 2012

Thoughts on Tonge and Huhne

Two Lib Dems have been in the news for the wrong reasons today.

First up looking at the case of Baroness Tonge. Do we know that Israel, or any country will exist forever? Simple answer is no we don't. Look at the map of 1980s Europe

Who would have thought when Maggie Thatcher came to power that by the time she left power that the Soviet Union would have split into its component parts. That the same would happen to Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, or that Germany would be reunited.

In the rest of the World since then Yemen has unified a Palestinian State has been recognised as had Eritrea and East Timor.  Also, while there is talk of when Puerto Rico might become the 51st state Palau has gained independence from the superpower. So nobody can say what countries will be around in 20 years time.

Baroness Tonge
However, Baroness Tonge's crime is not being unable to predict history but to say "Israel will lose support and then they will reap what they have sown." 

If we are to have influence in the world we should be striving to make Israel realise how they are seen by many in the world.  Along with Spain we in the UK have experience of dealing with conflict resolution and expertise that we can use to have influence in the Palestinian-Israeli issue. Peace walls are coming down in Northern Ireland, interfaces are being opened up after decades of being closed between communities. We are actually the position closest to that facing the West Bank and Gaza Strip today. What we should be doing is helping in the dialogue to enable Israel and Palestine to co-exist side by side.

Tonge is wrong and the fact that she has failed to realise that as Lib Dems we should be at the forefront of helping that region gain a lasting peace is illiberal and she had rightfully had the party whip removed.

Chris Huhne
The issue with Huhne is different, he has stepped down in his own words to defend what he says is his innocence. If he had been sacked or resigned for another reason he would have been entitled to his severance pay as any other employee with such a scheme has. The difference is that the minister in question has to put in the claim for it. I'm not sure if there is a time restriction on being able to claim this money, however I suspect that there might well be. Huhne is facing a court case the end date of which he does not yet know so he may have been unable to claim it after the case is settled.

So here is a solution.

Chris Huhne should set up a blind trust, over which he has no contorl, to handle the three months ministerial pay that he is entitled to as severance pay, with the proviso that if he is found guilty that all money and interest is returned, but if he is found innocent the monies in the fund are transferred to his control. That seems like a sensible and equitable solution just in case the accusations are those created by an ex-wife spurned making something out of rumours from the past.

I don't expect everyone to agree but I'd like to hear of an alternative that maintain the premise of innocent until proven otherwise in that situation.

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