Having covered off the Lance Armstrong thing I think it well worth grappling with the other topic that has made the news recently and that’s the complete debacle that is Chris Huhne’s life.
His tale must be an object lesson for us all. The headline on yesterday’s Daily Mail read ‘The man who ran out of lies’ and as much as I find the Mail a somewhat detestable newspaper, it sums up the story very well.
It’s a classic ‘pride before a fall’, story. Sure he had been pipped at the post for the Liberal Democrat leadership by charisma bypass Nick Clegg – a kick in the teeth if ever there was one – and had to work in a Cabinet with people like George Osborne and Michael Gove, but apart from that Huhne had it all.
It’s fair to say that Huhne was living a blessed life. Yes, he had joined the Liberal Democrat party, which is much like joining the Thomas the Tank Engine fan club – a largely pointless exercise – but when he did, he couldn’t have predicted that some day he would have been part of a fully operational UK government that makes proper decisions an’ that.
Huhne rode his luck and you could have regarded him as a success. Indeed, this time last year he was the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, which admittedly, is like being in charge of the laundry, but it was a cabinet post after all. People were even shouting his praises. I read he was a ‘consummate politician’. God knows what that is but it sounds pretty good doesn’t it?
Meanwhile, waiting to rear its ugly head was a lie that would leave his life in tatters. It wasn’t a big fat lie, but big enough to inflict serious damage.
In terms of the offence in question I don’t know what all the fuss is about. In my role as a car journalist I know of at least three people who have got their wives or girlfriends to take their points after being caught speeding by a GATSO. One individual, who I know very well, managed to rack up nine points in a 45-minute period in a Merc E-Class, and because it would have meant a ban, the points went his partner’s way.
In Huhne’s case the decision to pass on the speeding points to his wife was a particularly stupid one. The summons arrived in June 2003 when he wasn’t even a member of parliament. This was a timebomb that would drag him, his ex-wife and his children through the mire.
If you have bothered to look at the story you’ll know that Huhne’s son Peter has been caught in the crossfire. For whatever reason, a series of texts between the two have been part of the documentary evidence. His son, it is fair to say, isn’t particularly generous. Indeed, the phrase ‘Don’t text me you piece of shit’, pretty much sums Peter Huhne’s feelings for his dad.
Now, here’s the thing. First of all, the full text exchange is detailed in the Mail (not my usual choice of journal, I might add) and, as far as I know, pretty much every other news outlet. Yesterday, on Radio Five Live a journalist for the Huffington Post website justified the decision for publishing the entirety of the texts between Chris and Peter Huhne, arguing that it was in the public interest.
Now, I will accept all accusations of hypocrisy here – I have quoted one of the texts in this piece – but a bunch of texts between a father and his son, and the vitriol contained in them is, let’s face it, not in the public interest. It is fascinating, however. It’s fascinating because this kind of dysfunctional behaviour makes us feel better: it lets us know that no matter how messed up our own lives are, they are simply not in the same league as this.
The fact that Huhne got his wife to take the points for a speeding offence is trivial. Yep, it’s not right, but it’s hardly worth getting het up about. No, like Lance Armstrong, it was his insistence that he was innocent that’s the real crime and that points to an unbelievable arrogance that none of us can stomach. Huhne spent two years telling Nick Clegg and David Cameron that he had done no wrong and he even spent up to £500,000 on lawyers in a bid to derail the prosecution and that’s why you can put this man in the same context as Armstrong. Huhne, like many other lying politicians before (Jonathan Aitken, Jeffrey Archer etc) tried to use lawyers to cover their tracks and, as is always the case, the only winners here will be lawyers.
So, it’s a pretty sorry tale and therefore I implore you: if you get caught speeding, suck it up, take your points, drive home to your wife and children and tell them that you love them. It’s just so much easier than a painful, costlier alternative.