Chris Huhne Q&A: ‘It seems crazy that this trivial issue can spin into devastation for everything you care about’

Channel 4 News’ Gary Gibbon spoke to Chris Huhne shortly before he was jailed

Chris Huhne: Well I suppose the most important message I wanted to get across is really to say sorry to my family, friends, colleagues and constituents. Very clearly I should not have swapped points with my ex-wife … But there is also a lot of hurt that I inflicted on my family and my ex-wife, which explains some of the behaviour that has gone on since, and I’m very sorry for that as well.

Gary Gibbon: And people should believe you this time? – because you are admitting to having been a liar.

CH: I think a lot of people understand that you can start with making a fairly small mistake – or what seems to be a very small mistake, and things spin out of control. And at any given point it seems crazy that what is on the face of it, without realising the full legal consequences, a fairly trivial issue of exchanging speeding points with your wife can spin into this massive, devastating set of consequences for family, for career and for everything you really care about.

GG: And what made you change your mind? Why did you change your plea to guilty?

CH: I changed my plea really for two reasons. One was that I did not want to go and perjure myself in court. I think there is an enormous difference between saying something – after all you know – we all, I think to get through life, have some experience of, occasionally, what people call “white lies”. But you don’t go into court and you don’t perjure yourself. And that, I think, is very fundamental.

And the second thing is, I’d very much hoped that by doing that I could spare some of the bloodiness in terms of the family. I did not want to go into court and have to battle over character, or anything else, with the mother of my three lovely children. And that’s something I felt very strongly, the closer I got to court, I really didn’t want to do.

GG: But you didn’t spare your family a lot of the agony did you? Any sense that you might be at peace with relations with your family one day?

CH: Well, I certainly very much hope that, obviously, the process of healing in the relationships, which have been very strained in the family, will proceed, now that this is slowly getting behind us. And I absolutely feel that this whole process has intruded on family relationships, which can be very hurtful. In a way that was one of the things that made me feel very strongly that I didn’t want to put even more out there in a court case.

GG: It’s hard to imagine there could be much more. The details that people saw were awful.

CH: Yes they certainly were, but you have to remember, sadly, that that was police evidence that the police had on a search warrant, and so my ability to control any of that was very limited. And the key thing that I decided, was, obviously, do not perjure yourself, but secondly, I think the worst thing for any children – if they’re involved in a divorce – is to see their parents being awful about each other. And I wasn’t, and I never have been, and don’t intend to start doing that, as I say, about my ex-wife.

GG: Do you forgive her? Do you understand why she acted the way she did?

CH: I certainly understand the hurt attached to the way in which our relationship broke up. I mean, I think that that was awful … [all of it was] deeply shocking for somebody who’s a deeply private person and that, I think, explains a lot of what’s gone on.

GG: You were a cabinet minister; you were falling from great heights to get where you are now. Do you feel like a broken man?

CH: I am lucky in one respect, in that I have a lot of good close friends who’ve been with me as friends for a long, long time. And I’ve also got good family relationships: some of them very strained but others that are very strong. And I think that gives you enormous fortitude faced with these sort of circumstances. So I think my political career is very clearly over but I think that I have other things to offer, doing other things, and I will.

GG: The harsher view is that you lied and lied again to save your own career and didn’t properly calculate the cost on your family and others.

CH: Well, I certainly lied and lied again, and part of it was about saving my career but it was also partly to try and avoid the consequences for my family. I think I understood after a while what was likely to happen. And I don’t think my ex-wife did for example. And I don’t think there was a full understanding of the effect all this was likely to have on the family, not just in terms of my career and potentially the career of my ex-wife as well, but also on any money that might have been put aside for the kids.

GG: What might the next career be?

CH: I don’t know, we’ll have to wait and see. But that’s something I think I’ll have time to think about in prison.

This is an edited extract from the full interview transcript

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