Just about the only respectable moral that can be drawn from the grisly extended farce that was the Vicky Pryce trial is that the defence of marital coercion is a choice absurdity; one look at the feisty, tightlipped Ms Pryce should have been enough to persuade any jury that this one wasn’t a runner. Everything else about the trial was just horrible. And, obviously, utterly compelling. It’s a toss up between whether the calculated revelation about Pryce’s abortion – at her husband’s behest, she says – was worse than the publication of emails from her embittered son Peter to his father (for good measure she let it be known that her husband wanted that pregnancy aborted too), but the scary thing was that every bit of her home life and her children’s life amounted in the end to so much ammunition for her bid for self-preservation plus the destruction of Chris Huhne, and, if possible, his girlfriend. And so she brought them all down.
I would have thought that there won’t be many people terribly keen on passing on their speeding points to someone else from now on, which is good, but it’s precisely the disproportion between the triviality of the misdeed and the enormity of the consequences which gives most of us pause. But of course it was the lying and evasion that turned this wretched offence into a textbook moral fable, whereby, once you embark on deceit, you’re forever mired in it. And as a lesson in the downsides of revenge, there could hardly be a better instance than Vicky Pryce’s bid to destroy her husband while remaining in the shadows herself. The numerous emails between her and journalist Isabel Oakeshott aren’t for those of a sensitive disposition – though I confess to a reluctant admiration for Oakeshott’s skill at playing her willing catch, while trying throughout to see off her rivals at the Mail on Sunday – but the choicest part of their exchanges has to be where Vicky Pryce broods: “a solution must be possible with no damage to me?? I.e. me still being seen as the victim rather than the horrible avenger?” Alas, she now looks less like a horrible avenger than a not very good one.
I have only ever had the briefest dealings with Vicky Pryce myself, in which she struck me as an intelligent, perfectly pleasant woman, and normally my sympathies in these situations would lie with an abandoned wife. But I seem to recall that Ms Pryce has form herself: she left her first husband, an LSE economist, for Chris Huhne, taking with her two daughters and a usefully English surname, and those who castigate Huhne for destroying his family for his girlfriend should perhaps bear that in mind. I worked, too, for a while near to Carina Trimingham, for whom Mr Huhne left his wife, and I remember her as a cheerful, down to earth girl, keen on emphasising her education at a secondary modern. One of the striking aspects of the exchanges between Pryce and Oakeshott was the mustard-keenness of Pryce to get at the mistress as well as her husband: understandable, of course, but unedifying, not to mention very un-Lib-Dem in the disobliging references to Carina Trimingham’s bisexuality.
There should, I suppose, be a political lesson in all this to warrant our – well, my – unholy fascination with the case, but I can’t think of one, except the obvious: that people in public life are often unscrupulous in pursuit of ambition and may well be not very nice people. But, for all the desperate efforts to implicate Vince, Nick and Miriam in the business, that’s about all there is usefully to say about it.Tags: Chris Huhne, Liberal Democrats, UK politics, Vicky Pryce