Huhne / Pryce: this is a human drama, not a political story

huhne quitsIt was the number of voicemail messages on my mobile (having been holed up in meetings for my non-political day-job) that alerted me a story had broken this afternoon. A clutch of requests from news stations eager to know what the political fall-out for the Lib Dems would be from Vicky Pryce being found guilty of perverting the course of justice.

My short answer? I just can’t see it. Vicky Pryce is the ex-wife of an ex-MP. Yes, it’s a compelling human drama, a modern morality tale of how one lie can destroy the careers of two successful, powerful people and tear their family apart. But do I think that in two-and-a-bit years time voters are going to decide not to vote for the Lib Dems on the basis of Chris Huhne’s all-too-human frailties? No, I don’t.

And if it were going to happen, it would have happened last Thursday when the voters of Eastleigh, those most affected by their former MP’s downfall, had the chance to cast their votes and chose to place their trust in the Lib Dems’ Mike Thornton.

The Telegraph’s James Kirkup sums it up very well in his post Vicky Pryce trial: there’s no political lesson here. There’s just a horrible story of a family broken by vengeance:

… what can I tell you? Well, I can tell you about anger and grief, hurt and betrayal. And vengeance. I can tell you about vengeance. I can tell you that this is an awful, awful case of a family whose private agonies have spilled over the normal boundaries into the public and legal domains. That if Mr Huhne had remained faithful, none of this would have happened. That if Ms Pryce had not sought to damage her former husband’s career in the way she did, none of this would have happened. That people are weak and fallible and flawed. That they make mistakes.

As for the suggestions that Vince Cable, Matthew Oakeshott or Miriam González Durántez knew about the allegations and this somehow constitutes a Lib Dem ‘cover-up’… Well, they deny the suggestion, Miriam in no uncertain terms: “I have never, ever been told by Vicky or anybody else about the traffic points story.” But even if they had been told by Vicky Pryce, it’s hard to know what they would do with that information. Put yourself in their shoes: the ex-wife of a colleague makes an allegation relating to a speeding offence that happened 10 years ago. Would your first reaction be to call the police?

For sure it would be easier and better for the Lib Dems if the headlines tonight were different. But, please let’s get a bit of perspective about what matters, actually matters, and counts as a political story rather than a human drama.

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

Read more by or more about , , or .
This entry was posted in News.


  • They both need their heads checking!

  • John Broggio 7th Mar '13 - 8:52pm

    As at least one of the three that have allegedly been told about the Huhne/Pryce points swapping is a very well established legal figure, I’d hope that they would indeed know what to do if they came to acquire such knowledge.

  • David Blake 7th Mar '13 - 9:40pm

    Stephen – came over well on the BBC. You going to be an MP one day?

  • Vicky Pryce is a proven liar who tried to frame innocent people (not Huhne!) Why on earth would people believe what she said? Unless it’s useful to back the Lib Dems, of course…

  • I wonder if they’ll be put in the same cell.

  • It is a political story, he was an elected representative and I still believe all our MEP’s and MP’s should be better than this, Hunhe let himself down, the party down and in constituents down, It is totally a political story AND a human one.

  • Keith Browning 8th Mar '13 - 12:16am

    Research by insurers Churchill, shows that half a million people have swapped their penalty points to avoid a ban. The courts might be busy over the coming months.

  • The political story is that Nick and Vince may have known Huhne was guilty and did not act, either to advise him to stop claiming innocence, or to ease him out of cabinet.

    Your points about the credibility of Pryce are fair though and somebody is lying about whether or not various people were told. But who?

  • @ William

    Is Vicky Price (who today’s headlines are about) an MP or MEP?

    I obviously missed her election.

  • David Wilkinson 8th Mar '13 - 7:09am

    Of course it a political story anything which can be wraped, twisted or god forbid the bare lies is being used by every form of media this morning.
    It claim on the radio just is that all the senior memebrs of the party knew about the Hunne lies.
    The rate its going if a budgie breaks wind it will the Lib Dems fault according the media.

    The three people involved in this case Hunne, Pryce and the lawyer have shown they thought they better than the plebs.

  • @PSI

    No offence but that is a silly comment, Huhne was driving, Huhne benefited from moving his points to his wife, Huhne broke the law and Huhne was an MEP when he did it, he was a politician and as such should have been better than this. His wife has fallen fowl of unintended consequences, Ms Price got the revenge she desired but the law of unintended consequences has been her downfall. The fact she is not elected does not stop this being both a human AND a political story..

  • The media coverage of this is going beyond the bounds of parody. You’d expect this of the Daily Mail, with its hate campaigns against the Lib Dems, but the BBC?

    What on earth does the BBC think it is doing, leading its coverage of the conference with this kind of nonsense based on nothing other than hearsay from a now convicted liar? Their journalists seriously need to take a good look at themselves and the standards they keep.

    Shocked and disgusted of North London.

  • @ William

    The whole point is, Vicky Price was the one convicted this time. She was never an elected politician. Therefore it is not a political story and trying to contort it into one on the basis of hearsay just shows whoever is writing the story does so with deliberate intent to smear the Liberal Democrats.

  • Having just read the Tim Farron interview in House magazine, I think our President needs some serious media training. He has a disastrous turn of phrase sometimes, particularly at times when the media are out to twist every single word and use it out of context, which they have done with great gusto this morning. Quotes from his interview are all over the broadcast media this morning and they do not look good.

  • @RC

    You are correct Ms Price has been convicted and she is not the political half of this story she is a very human story BUT Huhne has pleaded guilty, he will be convicted and he was an elected MEP which makes it political, it makes it about trust, the honesty of a politician, not least because of his determined efforts to persuade the electorate of his innocence and his very serious attempts to get the charges dropped even though he was guilty. The effect on the electorate is one of ‘well what do you expect from politicians these days’ how can this not be political? I am a LibDem and i hate what Hunhe has done but i will not view him any differently than a polititian of the Tory party and i am getting a sense that some are.

  • @ William

    They have already reported on Chris Huhne’s conviction weeks ago, so reporting Vicky Price as a political story and then using her allegations to rake up some spurious connection with the Lib Dems is stretching the whole thing in a rather ridiculous fashion.

    This whole thing is being milked for every drop possible by those who wish our party ill. The sad thing is that the BBC appears to be conniving in this process.

  • @RC

    I cannot agree, I don’t see any particular differences in media coverage in this instance compared to some in the past, Archer, Aitkins etc. Where any party shows a weakness or a vulnerable spot the media will always go for it and we should not expect anything different and I honestly don’t believe we are being attacked any more than if our recent troubles were replicated in the Tory or Labour parties and to be honest the party has handled a lot of things poorly of late which has just fed the news media. I think the delay in sentencing Huhne is helping to keep the story alive for longer than it might have otherwise survived.

  • Surely this story will die down over time after the peak of interest when they are sentenced in the next few weeks?

    Who knows it may turn both Pryce and Huhne into prison reform advocates if they gain an insight into the way the system operates which may bring benefits for prisons longer term.

    And slightly flippantly we should have seen this coming – I find it hard to take seriously a man with a personalised numberplate: learning that Huhne has H11HNE make sme think why did we ever trust him?

  • Chris Huhne has reason to be grateful to Ms Pryce. A week ago he was in free fall from grace with no redeeming feature, guilty not only of committing a crime but also bullying a submissive little woman who did not dare say “no” to his overbearing demands. Now we discover that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned and the underdog is well capable of standing up for herself. What is more, she is not satisfied with bringing down the man who wronged her; she is lashing out, going after his friends and acting to destroy them as well. Perhaps now Chris Huhne can take comfort in that those who last week had only contempt for a convicted liar may this week be able to feel some sympathy for him.

  • Helen Dudden 10th Mar '13 - 11:13am

    It is sad for the whole family, I hope that they will recover from the events caused, by one very unwise act.

    A very sad ending for all those concerned.

  • Well said Helen. This tragedy has been a loss. While Chris Huhne is indeed a fallible human, he was also very good at his job, as said in Matthew Oakeshott’s statement yesterday:

    “This is a personal and political tragedy. Chris was a dynamic, decisive, strategic minister – an object lesson to us all in how to fight as hard in office as in opposition for the environment, economic growth, Europe and essential liberties,”

    I agree.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • Roger Lake
    I do mean something! I believe I have already drafted, checked, and sent a reply to this question. So I wonder where that is now. Briefly, I tried to exp...
  • Rif Winfield
    The level of UBI. Clearly this will need to be set initially at the threshold for paying the basic rate of tax, i.e. at £12,570 - or rather at whatever the thr...
  • Roger Lake
    I am shocked by all this noise. No-one seems to be actively looking ahead and working towards the General Election c.2029, when I refuse to be so pessimistic ...
  • Martin
    <iPeople on very low incomes in quite demanding jobs with long hours pay tax for public services which are not percieved to be at a very high standard. ...
  • James Fowler
    The problem with the 4 day week policy for public servants is not such what it may or may not achieve as how it looks. People on very low incomes in quite deman...