The disgrace of former Liberal Democrat cabinet minister Chris Huhne is a tragedy – in the sense that Greek dramatists would have understood. His weakness and foolishness has destroyed his family and his political career. He is sure to go to prison. All for a moment of madness when he tried to escape a speeding penalty.
But wait. The point overlooked in the acres of coverage of the story is that Huhne was a reckless risk taker who put lives at risk. The act of deception that destroyed his career was intended to avoid a driving ban. Yet just weeks later he was banned anyway, for using his mobile phone while driving. The man is a menace. And any sympathy we may have for his former wife – Huhne walked out on their 26 year marriage – is tempered by the fact she put other people at risk through their reckless act of conspiracy. (NB: she is reported to be planning to plead not guilty on the grounds of marital coercion.)
It beggars belief that Huhne thought he could lie his way out of this scandal. He did everything he could to have the case thrown out. That is unforgivable. It makes his likely sentence far worse. And at a time when politicians have a very poor reputation, he has reinforced the view that we cannot trust them – that lying is a natural reflex.That’s very unfair to the many principled people in politics.
The saddest aspect of the case is the bitter estrangement between Huhne and his son Peter, revealed in text message exchanges. That reflects the marriage break up as well as the perjury. Any father reading Peter’s texts would have shuddered at the fate of this father-son relationship. A Greek tragedy.