Chris Huhne lands £100k a year job at US energy firm. And why not?

huhne_harris_floodsThe Independent reports the story of Chris Huhne’s new role:

Disgraced former MP Chris Huhne has been hired as the manager of an energy firm just months after being released from prison. The Government’s ex-energy and climate change cabinet secretary has been working as the European manager of Zilkha Biomass Energy since July, according to the company’s website.

He was jailed in March for eight months along with his ex-wife Vicki Pryce for swapping speeding penalty points so he could avoid a driving ban, but the pair were released in May. The sustainable energy company says on its website that Mr Huhne is tasked with “the remit of growing the business in the European Union”. His new role is reported to be earning him £100,000 a year, the Sun said.

Mr Huhne resigned from the Cabinet when he was charged with perverting the course of justice, and later quit as a Liberal Democrat MP and privy councillor. The point-swapping, which dated back a decade, emerged only when Ms Pryce approached newspapers after Mr Huhne left her for another woman. He has kept a low profile since leaving jail.

I find it hard to get myself worked up about this, despite the inevitable row about the so-called revolving door between Whitehall and business. Assuming he’s following the usual code of conduct to ensure there is no tricky business, then it seems the ideal role for him. It combines the passion and knowledge of an industry he knew long before his cabinet role with his experience of how to get things done in the European Union. You can read his biography at Zilkha’s website here.

As he’s no longer an MP he has to make a new living for himself. Why not doing this? He’s done hubris and nemesis. Perhaps now he’ll find catharsis.

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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30 Comments

  • Politics used to be thesis, antithesis, synthesis
    now it’s hubris, nemesis, catharsis

  • Clear Thinker 11th Aug '13 - 12:56pm

    How does the electorate feel about it ?

  • Stuart Mitchell 11th Aug '13 - 1:28pm

    This news will come as no surprise to anybody – except those like Stephen Tall, who were telling us a few months ago that the court case had “destroyed” Huhne’s career (https://www.libdemvoice.org/vicky-pryce-chris-huhne-lib-dems-33580.html). Of course, 99% of us knew full well that Huhne would walk out of prison straight in to another highly paid job the likes of which most of us could never dream of.

    “As he’s no longer an MP he has to make a new living for himself.”

    Does he? I wonder how the rental income from his several properties compares to the average person’s salary.

  • LDProfessor 11th Aug '13 - 1:36pm

    @ Stuart Mitchell
    “Does he? I wonder how the rental income from his several properties compares to the average person’s salary.”

    You are, of course, assuming Mr Huhne owns these properties outright and is not paying off mortgages on them. You will also be aware that Barristers are not exactly cheap.

  • Just shows how under-paid MPs are, since they can earn so much more doing something else.

  • Stuart Mitchell 11th Aug '13 - 1:53pm

    @LDProfessor
    I assume nothing of the kind. I was asking the question. I’m curious to know how wealthy Huhne is, and what his net income is, taking account of all those things.

    Back in March, some unnamed friends of Huhne sobbed to The Independent that Huhne’s wealth had been exaggerated and in fact he was down to his last five properties, being worth, after mortgages were taken in to account, “somewhere between £1m and £1.5m, top whack”.

    If I had that sort of money I could easily retire now, and I’m much younger than Huhne.

    See :- http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/chris-huhnes-wealth-has-been-hugely-overrated-8537549.html

  • Stuart Mitchell 11th Aug '13 - 2:09pm

    @Stephen Tall
    No, you said it had destroyed his “career”, not his “political career”.

    “He’s now found a new career and good luck to him.”

    It is not a new career. He had started working in the energy industry well before the court case was resolved, and well before you wrote that his career had been “destroyed”. That career is flourishing, apparently unhindered by the court case.

  • “Just shows how under-paid MPs are, since they can earn so much more doing something else.”

    He’s ‘earning’ 100k because he was an MP – they are simply paying for his connections. He wouldn’t have been offered that job if it wasn’t for his previous positions, so it is not a fair comparison. Besides, MPs are already paid much more than people with similar levels of qualifications and with jobs that are equally demanding. The fact that such high pay attracts the likes of Huhne is an argument for reducing their pay, not increasing it. If the pay was lower we might get people who actually want to do the job rather than people who see it as an opportunity to line their own pockets.

  • It’s 18 months since he held a ministerial position. How long do people think you have to have left ministerial office before you can take a job in the same sector (personally I think it should be two years but that’s fairly arbitrary).

    That is the key issue with ministers takeing jobs in the industry – once a significant time has elapsed they will no longer have insider knowledge of what is going on.

  • Jonathan Brown 11th Aug '13 - 3:47pm

    Good luck to him.

    Plenty of people make stupid mistakes in their private lives and their careers. Whatever his other failings, he did some great work for the environment (and for us, on environmental issues), so I hope he’s able to continue to make a difference.

    I hope Vicky Pryce is as lucky / able to move on too.

  • It’s not exactly cleaning the toilets at Toynbee Hall is it?

    There’s a valuable lesson there for any wannabe modern politician, no matter what you do, what crimes you commit, you’ll earn a fortune outside parliament if you develop the right contacts.

    And you wonder why the public become disengaged from politics…

  • Chris is a man of exceptional ability and energy who did something stupid and paid a very high price for it. Landing a job on a salary of £100k is not actually a great coup for someone with his talents, even though it seems a lot of money to most people.

  • Richard Harris 11th Aug '13 - 7:52pm

    @Hywel
    I agree with your sentiment, but I don’t believe “insider knowledge” is a characteristic of still being in post. Until there is a change of government (and therefore a whole scale change of personnel), the contacts you have will continue to allow information to flow to your new employer. The time elapsed since being in post is not the issue, it’s who you know.

  • It doesn't add up... 11th Aug '13 - 8:20pm

    Huhne’s new role is for two days a week – or at an effective rate of £250,000 p.a. assuming he can fill the other three similarly. That is well paid. Ex DECC ministers have form. Charles Hendry is now Chairman of Forewind, the company owned mainly by Norwegian and German interests that plans to swallow £3bn per annum in subsidies on its Dogger Bank wind farms (9GW at 40% and over £100/MWh subsidy). Will Zilkha’s chips end up in our power stations? How much subsidy might that be worth?

    Ministers involved in rigging setting subsidies really should not be rewarded by those who benefit from them in my view.

  • Is there that much of a change of personnel even after a change of government?

  • Martin Caffrey 11th Aug '13 - 11:49pm

    Perhaps he’ll be able to secure jobs for Mr Clegg and Mr Alexander post the 2015 general election?

  • Andrew Suffield 12th Aug '13 - 12:27am

    Back in March, some unnamed friends of Huhne sobbed to The Independent that Huhne’s wealth had been exaggerated and in fact he was down to his last five properties, being worth, after mortgages were taken in to account, “somewhere between £1m and £1.5m, top whack”.

    If I had that sort of money I could easily retire now, and I’m much younger than Huhne.

    Actually, maybe not. Charlie Stross did the math on this a few years ago, and the amount of capital currently required to be able to live without working and without any money worries for the bulk of your adult life is roughly £4m, invested wisely. (It’s possible to do it on less if you’re willing to accept compromises on risk and lifestyle)

    Huhne used to be about that wealthy. He lost a lot of it in the divorce. He’s still very wealthy, but he’s back in the bracket where you do need an income again. Enough that he can do anything, but not enough to do nothing.

  • “Actually, maybe not. Charlie Stross did the math on this a few years ago, and the amount of capital currently required to be able to live without working and without any money worries for the bulk of your adult life is roughly £4m, invested wisely. (It’s possible to do it on less if you’re willing to accept compromises on risk and lifestyle)”

    It sounds as though the kind of compromises you’re thinking of are cutting down on the domestic staff and getting rid of the fourth car. Maybe Charlie Stross should take a break from the ‘math’ and see how ordinary people live in the real world some time.

  • “Actually, maybe not. Charlie Stross did the math on this a few years ago, and the amount of capital currently required to be able to live without working and without any money worries for the bulk of your adult life is roughly £4m, invested wisely. ”

    I’ve done the ‘math’. The median UK salary after tax is £17300. 4 million quid divided by 17300 is 231 years. So, a savings pot of £4m would allow Huhne to live like the average UK citizen until the age of 290 without lifting a finger.

  • “wherein it suggests an index linked pension of £20,000 for a 35 year old woman ”

    I’ve heard Huhne described as lots of things, but I didn’t realise he is a 35 year old woman.

  • If you invested your £4 million pounds and took just 1% a year from it then you would get £40,000.00 per year. Sounds like one heck of a good income compared to what most of the people I know get…
    At the time Chris Huhne got convicted, I was one of those who said on LDV that he had got put away due to his own long-term dishonesty, that I did not feel sorry for him and that he would soon be leading a luxury lifestyle when he got released. Of course, I was right. This illustrates a very serious problem: the existence of a privileged political class who use the connections they made in office to create a luxury lifestyle for themselves rather than to serve society. The privileges of this class pose a serious problem for the continuation of democracy and one reason why the three main political parties (assuming the LibDems are still one of the three main political parties) are losing members and voters.

  • Whether £60,000 is “no money worries” depends on your lifestyle, drug habits, etc.

    If that were what it amounted to – and £4m would equate to that for 67 years even if you were getting no real return whatsoever on the investment, so it should actually yield significantly more if “invested wisely” – then it would bear out what I’m saying, because it’s well over twice the median full-time salary. 90% of the population has to survive on less than that, and 25% of the population on only a quarter of that. And that’s just in the developed world, of course …

    To say that you have to make lifestyle compromises to survive on less than £60k really does indicate a need to acquaint oneself with the real world.

    And please don’t try to make an ad hominem attack on me by accusing me of being ‘bitter’. It hardly strengthens your case.

  • It doesn't add up... 12th Aug '13 - 10:22am

    £4m divided by £60,000 suggests you would need to live to 100 just to see your capital returned in real terms – never mind gain a return on it. You’d probably do better investing in BTL….

  • The “court of public opinion” is a stupid beast.

    It will only see a disgraced corrupt MP, getting a job that he would likely not have gotten if not for his connections.

    This will tarnish the lib dems no matter what arguments you present.

  • Michael Parsons 13th Aug '13 - 11:44am

    What a triumph for LibDem policies of social rehabilitation! Life’s not so bad for old lags after all.

  • Simon Banks 26th Aug '13 - 4:51pm

    I agree there’s no reason why he shouldn’t have been appointed. He’s served time and seen one career ruined. I think we believe in rehabilitation. And by the way, I don’t see why Monty Panesar shouldn’t play for England either, provided he doesn’t interact with umpires the way he allegedly interacted with doormen.

    I was curious to see what the company said about Chris on its website. It says nothing about what he’s been doing since 2012!

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