I think we’re all very relieved that Vicky Pryce, the estranged wife of the Cabinet minister Chris Huhne, is not motivated by revenge in writing a book about her ex-husband and dobbing him in to the police.
I think we’re all very relieved that Vicky Pryce, the estranged wife of the Cabinet minister Chris Huhne, is not motivated by revenge in writing a book about her ex-husband and dobbing him in to the police. If the book was motivated by spite and revenge because Chris had recently dumped her for a strange mannish woman who ever-so-slightly resembles the late TV comedian Jack Douglas, I think we’d all feel a little unclean reading it. But Vicky insists that it was written in order to let people know how terribly difficult it can be if you’re married to a senior politician — so, in a sense, she has written the book out of open-hearted kindness and a sense of decency.
Similarly, one supposes, her willingness to testify to the police that Chris allegedly persuaded her to cop for his speeding ticket eight years ago is also motivated by a sense of decency and nobility, albeit a sense of decency and nobility which has been somewhat sluggish in manifesting itself. You would hope that the old bill will have a chance to read Vicky’s book, acquaint themselves with her sense of decency and nobility and therefore not charge her for having accepted the speeding penalty in the first case, i.e. before the decency and nobility wandered along. If indeed she did accept the points penalty, as she is now fervently claiming to anyone who will listen. In terms of seriousness the two offences are not terribly different, even if for one party they will mean a destroyed political career and for the other a sort of bitter, pyrrhic victory. When Vicky broke the law, if she did break the law, she did so out of loyalty; now she is coming clean out of a burning disloyalty.
I was not clear in my own mind, incidentally, that I wanted to learn much more about Chris Huhne than I knew already (which is very little). If asked, I would have guessed that the skeletons in his closet, if he had any at all, wore single-breasted grey suits from Next and Hush Puppies and talked endlessly to each other about convergence criteria for joining the single currency. The kinds of skeletons you would do your best to avoid at a party. I mean, this is Chris Huhne we are talking about, not Charlie Sheen or Errol Flynn, or even George Brown. And so it has proved: out of that sense of decency and nobility and a wish to let people know how difficult it is being married to a politician, Vicky has squeezed her bile duct dry and the best she’s come up with is an illegal and fantastically dull alleged transgression which took place before Huhne was even an MP, so long ago that there is considerable doubt as to whether it happened at all. There is regrettably no sex with animals, there are no crack cocaine binges, or intimations of megalomania — unless she’s saving these up for later instalments. These candid revelations from Ms Pryce are of the kind which make the likes of Menzies Campbell appear a bit racy. So far it appears that Chris Huhne was sufficiently ruthless in his ambition to expect his missus to sacrifice a few points on her driving licence for him, allegedly. And that’s about it.
The whole business reminds one of that other bastion of nobility and decency, Margaret Cook, the spurned wife of Robin Cook. When Robin binned Margaret for his research assistant Gaynor Regan, Margaret also launched into print. ‘I am really not motivated by revenge of any description,’ Margaret told the press before very decently revealing that Cookie was pissed half the time, had shagged half a dozen other women before Gaynor and hated every one of his colleagues, especially Gordon and Peter. And similarly unmotivated by revenge, she popped up in the press or on TV every time any other married bloke in the public eye had been caught with his trousers down in an unfamiliar place, giving her verdict on what it was like to be married to someone who took their trousers down quite regularly and how Cookie was pissed half the time, etc etc. The other connection between these two stories, of Cook and Huhne, is that Margaret Cook also slightly resembles the late comedian Jack Douglas. That — and the sense of decency and nobility which undoubtedly motivated both women.
I hate to get all hand-wringing, but I do wonder what is the bigger moral transgression: leaving your wife for a woman who looks a bit like Jack Douglas, or doing everything you possibly can to destroy your ex-husband’s career because he has left you for a woman who looks a bit like Jack Douglas. They are both bad, I suppose, both occasioned by human weakness, both essentially destructive acts which cause pain to other people. But our opprobrium in such cases appends to only one party — largely because we seem to enjoy reading the dirt, the filth, when it is published, and do so with a rather smug sense of self-righteousness. And we can only have that self-righteousness if we exculpate the supposedly injured party: in both of the cases I have mentioned, the women.
And there does seem to be something inside us which yearns for this sort of misery and revels in it. Take a look at the way in which the television personality Jeremy Clarkson is being hounded right now because the tabloids have got a whiff of a suspicion that his marriage might be in trouble. They, and presumably the readers, cannot quite contain their glee.