The Deputy Prime Minister said Huhne, who faces jail along with his former wife Vicky Pryce for swapping speeding points, was a “powerful thinker” and highlighted Huhne’s recent contribution to a new book on environmental policy.
“Whatever is going on with Chris and Vicky, not only was he an outstanding local constituency MP, he was also an extremely powerful thinker and, indeed, a very effective secretary of state,” said Clegg at a fringe event at the Lib Dem Spring Conference.
“The fact that he has contributed two chapters on very important policies is very good to see. I hope people register that.”
Huhne, a former energy secretary and Lib Dem leadership contender, also received a warm round of applause from delegates in Brighton when party doyenne Baroness Shirley Williams hailed his “brilliant” performance in government. She described his downfall and that of Pryce as a “domestic tragedy”.
Former Lib Dem leader Lord Ashdown pointed out that when he first stood for parliament in Yeovil in the 1970s, then leader Jeremy Thorpe was facing trial for conspiracy to murder.
Huhne’s fall from grace was triggered when he left Pryce for his former press adviser Carina Trimingham in 2010. Pryce told newspapers he had forced her to accept penalty points on his behalf a decade ago to avoid losing his driving licence.
He subsequently resigned when police charged them with perverting the course of justice. He pled guilty last month, while Pryce was convicted last week.