The disgraced former cabinet minister Chris Huhne was an arrogant bully who forced his ex-wife to have an abortion because he thought another child would be bad for his career, she told a court today.
A tearful Vicky Pryce said that her former husband had been adamant in opposing her having a child 23 years ago and she felt that she had no choice but to terminate the pregnancy. “He absolutely resisted it, saying it was bad timing, bad financially, bad for his career to be tied down again. And despite my protestations, he got me to have an abortion, which I have regretted ever since,” she told a jury.
Ms Pryce, 60, a mother of five, described the episode as she sought to explain how she bowed to intense pressure to take penalty points on Huhne’s behalf for a speeding offence in 2003. The former Energy Secretary pleaded guilty on Monday to perverting the course of justice, signalling the end of a political career in which he had missed becoming leader of the Liberal Democrats by just a few hundred votes after years of campaigning to achieve his goal.
During two-and-a-half hours in the witness box, Ms Pryce painted a picture of Huhne as a hard-working and ruthlessly ambitious politician who thought he had few intellectual peers. “I don’t think there are lot of people who he believes are his superiors,” she told the court. “In fact, I can’t think of anyone, intellectually.”
She told how he put his ambitions ahead of his family as he sought to climb the political ladder.
Ms Pryce – a talented and highly successful economist – claimed that her former husband believed that he was “above the law” and bullied her into agreeing to take three points for her licence.
Ms Pryce “exploded” when she learned that he had sent in a form nominating her as the person who was driving, but felt she had “no choice” but to sign up to the pact after he called her down to their hallway and stood over her as she signed a police notice, she told the jury of eight women and four men.
Southwark Crown Court heard that in 2003 she told one of her Clapham neighbours, Constance Briscoe, a lawyer and part-time judge, about Huhne passing the points to her in that year.
But she only came forward and revealed his crime more than seven years later after the break-up of their 26-year marriage, when his affair with an aide, Carina Trimingham, was exposed in June 2010.
His confession came just weeks after he was re-elected MP to Eastleigh after using campaign leaflets that showed their wedding picture and included the comment: “Family matters to me so much. Where would we be without it?”
Ms Pryce told the court that one of the couple’s three children was so angry at his father’s betrayal with Ms Trimingham, a bisexual who had previously been in a civil partnership, that he changed his name from Huhne.
Ms Pryce – who referred to her former husband as Mr Huhne throughout the hearing – said she took her revenge against him as she believed she was being briefed against after her appearance at the Liberal Democrat party conference in 2010.
Ms Pryce, who used to work with Vince Cable and was a long-term party activist, told the court she believed history was being re-written to paint her as a “scorned wife” amid suggestions – put about in an attempt to rehabilitate her husband’s career – that their marriage was, in effect, already over.
Wanting the world to know what sort of man had reached high government position, Ms Pryce told the political editor of The Sunday Times, Isabel Oakeshott, about the speeding fine secret during a lunchtime meeting, the court heard.
Ms Pryce, wearing a dark skirt and jacket and multi-coloured scarf, said her confession came two months after a meeting with the man she said she “was very much in love with”, despite his behaviour, and with whom she had hoped to be reconciled.
She said that she did not believe that her actions would lead to his resignation despite writing in an email to Ms Oakeshott that she hoped to “nail” her husband. “I never thought he would resign over something like that,” she told the court. “He is very, very strong-minded and very little really affects him if he is determined to survive it.
“He had a serious position in government and I somehow felt that people didn’t really know what he was like. I had not wanted to see him lose his job, prosecuted or anything,” she said.
Ms Pryce denies perverting the course of justice. The case continues.