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Nothing like a challenge

The new Energy Secretary Chris Huhne, twice failed candidate for Lib Dem leader, was advertising for a new speechwriter in the Sunday papers recently. Now there's a challenge.

It was a different sort of appearance for Huhne in the Sunday prints, where the announcement of his affair with press secretary Carina Trimingham came as a shocking revelation to his wife of 26 years and kept the tabloids smirking for a week or two. But that will be the least of the new speechwriter's problems.

Huhne is no stranger to controversy. On his website he declares himself dedicated to a fairer and greener Britain, and he has made his own contribution towards it by owning seven houses, two of them for his parliamentary purposes, the other five, he says, for his pension.

But he's helping to make up for that conspicuous consumption with a role in the government that is taking the pension age even further out of reach, and ensuring that fewer people can afford a home in retirement by throwing up to 1.3 million of them out of work through the effect of the self-confessed "savage" spending cuts brought forward by George Osborne.

The new speechwriter might have trouble reconciling that with Huhne's belief before the election that to bring in deep cuts prematurely was unneccessary and dangerous to the economy. Yes, but that was before the election and the settling of derrieres on Cabinet seats.

And why shouldn't he own seven houses? He made his fortune in the City setting up a company to provide expertise in sovereign debt ratings, something that will come in useful now. That success has enabled him to devote his career to politics where he has ensured he cultivated the right image for a senior Lib Dem MP by buying a trouser press – and getting the taxpayer to stump up the £119 price on his expenses.

Mr H. has very forthright views on expenses. In one of those 'old' speeches to the Liberal Democrats in Business meeting at the National Liberal Club in London on March 23, 2010 he declared that the parliamentary expenses scandal showed "the system is rotten and needs to change".

Warming to his theme he added: "If you give someone a safe job for life, don't be surprised if they abuse that position . . . if you can't lose why not clean the moat. Charge for the duck house?"

Or indeed for the trouser press.

In that same speech he went on to discuss the need for change to the voting system, particularly the introduction of proportional representation and specifically dismissing the Alternative Vote option as "not radical enough to fix our broken political system".

There seems to have been another change of wind there too, because it is the AV system that Nick Clegg and his cohorts are now pressing forward in a proposed referendum. What a difference a Cabinet seat makes.

A difference, too, in the way he views his new Great Leader, David Cameron.

In a speech to the Lib Dem Spring conference in Birmingham on March 14, Huhne told his audience: "Heaven help the country if Cameron wins [the election] . . . he is not fit for No 10."

But that was then; when circumstances were different and the trouser press was only in use outside the corridors of power.

It certainly will be ingenious work for the new speechwriter to reconcile these conflicting pressures, though. As he or she sits mulling over the possibilities and the verbiage, burning the midnight oil, a cup of tea and a biscuit to help the creative process might come to mind.

And the speechwriter might like to take a leaf out of his new boss's expenses book and put in a claim to cover it, as did the man worth an estimated £3.5m, in his Commons claim seeking repayment for – skimmed milk (62p), teabags (89p), cheese muffin (99p), bacon-flavoured Wheat Munchies (28p) rounded off with a Hobnob or two (79p).

A claim made under that same "abused" and broken system he fulminated against in March.

Good luck with the speeches.