Pryce guilty: The ups and downs of the ultimate power couple

 

Crime Correspondent

They were the ultimate power couple: ferociously clever, frighteningly ambitious and with an upward trajectory of success. One of them wanted to be chancellor, had a highly-paid and glittering career, and was a regular fixture on the news channels talking about the euro crisis. The other one was Chris Huhne.

With a CV that has included joint head of the UK's government economic service and top jobs in the City (despite saying that she had put her career on the backburner for her husband), Ms Pryce, 60, was a woman whom it paid to know. After leaving her senior position with the civil service, she had embarked on early discussions with the Liberal Democrats about moving into politics, she told her first trial.

Even after the highly-public break-up of her marriage after 26 years, she returned to the Liberal Democrat party conference in 2010 where Vince Cable - her former boss - descended from the platform with a show of support and a kiss on both cheeks. She had been there to support him when he made his first conference speech as a minister, when he upbraided bankers as gamblers and spivs.

If that marked her move into the political top division - though she claimed her reported ambition to be a chancellor was a joke - her reactions to what she saw as negative briefing against her following her conference appearance led her down the path to the dock at Southwark Crown Court.

Vasiliki Courmouzis was born in Athens in 1952 and came to Britain to study at the London School of Economics while Greece was labouring under a series of right-wing military governments, which affected the family's tourism business.

While working as a telephonist and guiding French and German tourists in London, she completed her degree in economics. She married for the first time while an undergraduate and had two daughters, but the marriage ended nine years later. She kept her first husband's surname: Pryce.

Her career was already on a sharp upward curve. Initially working for a bank that was part of RBS, she rose to chief economist, and took further jobs for Exxon Europe and then chief economist and partner at Peat Marwick, which became KPMG.

She met Chris Huhne, like herself an economist, about a year after her first marriage ended, while he was working as a leader writer with the Guardian. He was already politically active for the SDP, standing and losing the first of two consecutive parliamentary elections in 1983.

They married in 1984 - after she briefly had second thoughts and broke off their engagement - in the Greek Orthodox Cathedral in London. The couple had three children, two boys and a girl. He moved to the Independent newspaper before carving out a successful career in the City. But his yearning for political office never left him, his wife said.

Ms Pryce had strongly opposed her husband's decision to become an MEP - a position he held for six years from 1999 - because of the impact that it would have on the family. At the time, she was travelling around with her high pressure job at KPMG and she negotiated an advisory job that meant less travelling.

She was head-hunted and moved jobs and also set up the Good Corporation - advising companies on ethical behaviour. She was swiftly head-hunted again, this time by the government, and joined the then Department for Trade and Industry in August 2002 and become joint head of the Government Economic Service in 2007. She was given a CB for services to economics in 2009.

Her plaudits increased with her positions. Baron Stern of Brentford spoke of his "confidence in her judgment and integrity"; Sir John Scarlett, the former MI6 chief, found her "a person of clear integrity"; and John Gieve, the former deputy governor of the Bank of England, said that she was open and honest who was a "first-class economist, one of the best commentators and analysts working in the UK today".

The Huhne-Pryce townhouse in Clapham became a renowned political salon with annual post-Davos parties as he rose up the political ladder. They continued after Huhne left their house and her own profile continued to grow. She made regular television appearances commenting on the global economic crisis in the slightly accented English of the self-proclaimed "fiery Greek". English is her fourth language. She wrote a book on the inevitability of crisis in Greece. She has also written for this newspaper.

However, she was also a woman on mission of revenge. She was briefing journalists about her husband as part of her stated aim to "nail" her husband. She did so "albeit that she was frightened for herself and her own safety if that was to happen," according to legal documents.

In one interview after the marriage break-up she talked about her ambition to enter politics despite her experience being married to a prominent politician. "Well people lie to get whatever they want done. And they back-stab each other and all that stuff," she said. "I'm not thinking of just one person, I'm thinking of lots of people."

Further reading

Vicky Pryce convicted over Chris Huhne speeding points scam

Lib Dems 'knew Huhne had broken law months before it became public'

The e-mails between Vicky Pryce and Sunday Times reporter Isabel Oakeshott

The campaign by vengeful wife and 'batty' barrister

Trial laid bare strains in Huhne household

Marital coercion - a defence that faces major change

Debate: Is accepting points, as Vicky Pryce did, par for the course in a loving marriage?

Do you have any sympathy for Vicky Pryce?

Vicky Pryce, Chris Huhne and why this was not a criminal trial, but a divorce case by proxy

Judge praises jury for 'assiduously performing duties' after embarrassment of first trial

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Property
pets
Arts and Entertainment
tvGame of Thrones season 5 ep 4, review - WARNING: contains major spoiliers!
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
News
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Sport
football
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
News
news
News
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
news
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living