Huhne ‘leaves the Lib-Lab door open’

By politics.co.uk staff

Chris Huhne has reportedly left open the possibility of working with Ed Miliband at Labour’s conference in Manchester.

The energy and climate change secretary appeared at Labour’s conference amidst bitter anti-Lib Dem rhetoric and admitted that many voters had chosen Liberal Democrat candidates in order to keep the Conservatives out.

He dismissed suggestions that the party was courting electoral annihilation by committing to the Conservative-led coalition for five years and said: “The Liberal Democrats are here to stay. We are not about to disappear in a puff of smoke. We are a long-term part of the political landscape.”

“Inevitably in a system like ours there are going to be places like Eastleigh where everybody knows it is a close contest between Liberal Democrats and Conservatives and people may well have voted for me in order to keep the Conservatives out,” the Evening Standard newspaper quoted him as saying.

“In terms of [his constituency] Eastleigh we did keep the Conservatives out.

“On a national level, I don’t think we can be accused of misleading anyone because we said all through the election campaign that we would talk first with the party with the largest electoral mandate – the most votes and the most seats – and that is precisely what we did.”

Crucially, the Lib Dem minister apparently extended something of an olive branch to Labour, leaving open the possibility of working with the party after next election.

“We will, in my view, be in coalition with an agreed programme with the Conservatives until the next election, and at that point we will fight as an independent party with a programme which we will put forward which will be quite distinct from the programme of the Conservatives or Labour,” he said.

“We will go into that election without any preconceptions about what the result will be.”