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Chris Huhne: Rise and fall of ruthless politician

Former Cabinet Minister Chris Huhne leaves Southwark Crown Court. Picture: Getty

Former Cabinet Minister Chris Huhne leaves Southwark Crown Court. Picture: Getty

  • by DAVID MADDOX
 

CHRIS Huhne has as a politician, city entrepreneur and journalist forged a reputation for ruthless ambition but also extraordinary ability.

Before turning to politics the 57-year-old was an award winning journalist for titles such as the Financial Times before heading to the City where he ended up as a Vice Chairman of the ratings agency Fitch.

He then entered professional politics in 1999 when he became a Member of the European Parliament where like the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, he forged his early political career in Strasbourg and Brussels.

But always ambitious, Mr Huhne wasted little time in making the move to Westminster taking the seat of Eastleigh which had been a Tory safe seat until the Lib Dems won it in a by-election in 1994.

Then within less than a year of entering Westminster he stood for his party’s leadership when Charles Kennedy stepped down, angering many of his other newly elected colleagues who thought there was a deal not to take part in the contest.

From being a rank outsider Mr Huhne almost managed to overhaul Sir Menzies Campbell.

A year later he was back again this time just pipped at the post by a mere 256 by Nick Clegg, who was the party hierarchy’s annointed candidate.

It was always believed that Mr Huhne, who fought two bitter elections against the Tories to keep hold of the Eastleigh seat for his party, benefited from tactical voting by Labour and it was understood that he always preferred a centre left coalition.

Yet he was a key member of the team of senior MPs who negotiated the coalition deal with David Cameron and then took office as Energy Secretary.

His and his party’s decision to do this was seen as a betrayal by those who voted Lib Dem in places like Eastleigh to keep the Tories out, but it was also seen as another sign of his personal ambition which was also evident when he started briefing against cabinet colleagues.

Tory backbenchers, who already detested him, were clamouring for him to be removed for disloyalty tot he government over attacks on Home Secretary Theresa May.

There was a suspicion that as the Lib Dems grew increasingly unpopular in government that he was positioning himself to make it third time lucky in a leadership bid.

But Mr Huhne’s belief in himself appears to have been his own undoing.

Around the same time he went into government with the Tories he also left his wife Vicky Pryce, who did what women spurned have often done, and told all to a newspaper.

Part of this was an accusation that he had got her to take speeding points for him a decade ago.

After months of denial Mr Huhne has now pleaded guilty to the offence of perverting the course of justice and will face likely imprisonment while a highly promising political career is in ruins.

 

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