Nick Clegg will meet Chris Huhne shortly following his release from prison after serving two months of an eight-month sentence for perverting the course of justice.
Both men believe the former Cabinet minister’s career in politics is over and their meeting will be a social one between friends. Although Mr Clegg pipped Mr Huhne to win the Liberal Democrat leadership in 2007, party insiders say they have been wrongly portrayed as rivals.
Mr Clegg sent a text to Mr Huhne after he left Leyhill open prison in Gloucestershire at 7.30am and Mr Huhne replied. They agreed to meet “in the not too distant future”, according to aides of the Deputy Prime Minister.
Vicky Pryce, Mr Huhne’s ex-wife, was freed from East Sutton Park Prison near Maidstone, Kent, yesterday. She also received an eight-month jail term for the same offence, which related to her taking penalty points for a speeding offence committed by her then husband 10 years earlier.
Ms Pryce is writing a book based on her experience in jail. Prisonomics will be a “very personal” book that will include a “hard-hitting analysis” of the cost of keeping women in prison, according to its publisher.
Friends of Mr Huhne hope that it will not be too “personal” and will not reprise the acrimonious break-up of their marriage and events which led to them both being jailed.
Her publisher Biteback said the book, to be published in September, “is emphatically not a full memoir, but draws upon diaries Vicky has kept during her period in prison”. Iain Dale, the publisher’s managing director, said: “She has a unique perspective on the judicial process and how prison works, or doesn’t, and her book will, I am sure, be a compelling read.”
Ms Pryce said: “I kept a diary while in prison and I have some strong views on how the prison system works, especially with regard to how it treats women. I will use personal experience to back up my arguments but I must be clear that this book is more than a memoir – it will analyse how prison works, and should work, very much from an economic perspective.”
Asked if Ms Pryce could be seen to be profiting from her crime by publishing a book based on her time in prison, her solicitor Robert Brown said: “In my view, the law is not designed to prevent someone like Vicky Pryce from publishing a book about the economics of prisons. It was designed for other sorts of situations, and would not be enforceable against Vicky in this case.”
When she arrived at the former family home in Clapham, south London, Mr Brown said she was “very pleased to be home and back with her family”. He added: “She is grateful for all the support she has received from everyone, including her fellow residents and prison staff. She now intends to spend time with her family and looks forward to returning to her career as an economist.”
Both Mr Huhne and his former wife will wear electronic tags as they complete their sentences outside prison. As he arrived at his flat in Clerkenwell, London, with his partner Carina Trimingham, Mr Huhne told reporters: “I said [previously] that I was very sorry for what I had done. It has been a humbling and sobering experience. I would like to thank all of those who have written to me – hundreds of letters that I have had – and all my family and friends who stood by me. I would now like to get on, get back to home, and continue with my life.”
Friends believe the 58-year-old former Energy and Climate Change Secretary, who worked in journalism and the City before going into politics, will now embark on a “fourth career”. One ally said he will “need to make some money” after his divorce settlement, losing his salary as a minister and MP and facing a demand for £100,000 from the Crown Prosecution Service for the cost of his case, before he changed his mind at the last minute to plead guilty. Mr Huhne is contesting that and has offered to pay £25,000.
Some friends believe he will work in the “green energy” industry, whose growth he encouraged while he was in the Cabinet.
While awaiting his trial, he advised Nationwide Energy Services, which helps householders use the Government’s Green Deal to insulate their homes. He was paid a signing-on fee of £10,000 and retainer of £3,500 a month.
Former political allies believe Mr Huhne will bounce back – but not in politics. One Liberal Democrat source said: “He is a very talented person. Whatever he does, I am sure he will be successful at it.”
Chris Huhne’s statement
“I would just like to say once again, as you know from the night I was sentenced, I said that I was very sorry for what I had done. It has been a humbling and sobering experience. I would like to thank all of those who have written to me - hundreds of letters that I have had - and all my family and friends who stood by me. And I would also just remind you that I have served only part of my sentence and therefore it is not appropriate to say more. I would now like to get on, get back to home, and continue with my life. Thank you for coming.”
Vicky Pryce’s statement
“Vicky Pryce is very pleased to be home and back with her family. She is grateful for all the support she has received from everyone whilst in prison, including her fellow residents and prison staff. She now intends to spend time with her family and looks forward to returning to her career as an economist.”