Soap Box: Graham McMillan, CEO of Open Road

To lose one Liberal Democrat Cabinet heavyweight - David Laws - may be considered unfortunate. To lose two might look like carelessness.

Graham McMillan: on Chris Huhne
Graham McMillan: on Chris Huhne

But, in Ed Davey, they have a new Lib Dem Energy and Climate Change Secretary who is bright, highly regarded, a safe pair of hands, trusted by Nick Clegg and rated by his Conservative coalition partners. That is a good start.

He has the advantage that the major Lib Dem U-turn - on nuclear power - has been performed by his predecessor. He also has the advantage that the main planks of the DECC's policy agenda have all been agreed and set out.

Will Davey be put under pressure by George Osborne and the Tory right to backtrack on climate change to protect growth and energy-intensive industries? Yes. But while Chris Huhne fought strongly to ensure that the green agenda is delivered in Government, Davey will fight in a less confrontational way.

Davey is liked and respected by his Tory coalition partners (unlike Huhne) and so he will want to engage with them in a constructive debate rather than having a public row. Who's to say his approach will not be as influential as Huhne's?

The Lib Dems have begun to settle into their differentiation strategy where they can disagree with aspects of the Government's overall approach in public. This is the right course and they need to do more to remind the public of who they are and what they stand for (not just AV and reform of the House of Lords).

This may be more difficult for them after Huhne's departure. Huhne was an effective Mr Nasty (to the Tories) to Nick Clegg's Mr Nice. Davey may prefer a more constructive behind-the-scenes approach.

It is conceivable Huhne could be acquitted and come back in a non-Cabinet role. But it is also conceivable that he could be found guilty, and in those circumstances, he might well feel obliged to stand down as an MP.

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