Men go to war to avenge love and loss of love.
On a more basic level, they thump the man who took their girl. Women, on the other hand, do other things to exact revenge. They cut up Savile Row suits, donate a priceless wine collection to bemused villagers. They also expose their erring partners in the press just as Vicky Pryce has done.
We’ve seen all it before – the hurt, the betrayal, the shattered dreams, all played out in front of a public audience. Pryce lashed out in the only way she knew how to, and it had disastrous consequences. Her family lies destroyed, her reputation shattered. And yet I don’t think there is a woman out there who doesn’t have a small shred of sympathy for her.
She is a woman of great stature, a fine brain, steely ambition. She has five children whom she obviously loves. She should have been able to stand tall and proud. But it turned out her husband, Chris Huhne, was a lying wimp.
Let’s put this into context. Huhne, her husband of more than two decades, rang her and told her their marriage was over while she was at a football match with their son. That in itself almost beggars belief. Then, for all the time he protested his innocence vis à vis the speeding points fiasco, he was lying. All those times he told friends, family, the press, the public, etc he was innocent, he was lying. He cost the legal system the thousands of pounds that it is now trying to claim back.
I am not surprised that this enraged his former wife. Her ex-husband, who had left her for another woman whom she also trusted (a double whammy) stood in front of the people who voted for him, in front of the tax-paying public in general, and knowingly lied. Pryce says she wanted to show us who Chris Huhne really was – a man lacking in any moral fibre. Why should he escape unscathed? If he could have wriggled his way out of the situation, he would have done. So she told someone about the speeding points and that was the little spade of earth that she put in to the ground.
So who is to blame here? When women feel as horribly let down as Pryce did, there are only a few weapons available to them – anger, hurt, rage. We’ve all felt it at some point. It’s what being human is about. Betrayal gets into places we never even knew existed.
’Twas ever thus. People go to war over love (witness the Trojan War), they kill each other, vow to avenge their lover’s deaths, drag love rivals round the gates attached to a chariot. This is the point of it. Love, the search for love, the desire for it, the excruciating pain at the loss of it is more powerful than money, power, ambition. It’s the stuff of soap operas and yet it has been part of the world since Adam and Eve. It is what makes us human. Our logical brains, our well-ordered lives, the happiness we so rely on – all this is meaningless when faced with the power, the terror, the glories of love.
We’ve all been there. We’ve all felt that swoon of love, those first moments of absolute passion and then … hopefully, that settling down, a sense of commitment. We maybe make a home, have children. We build up a life of love and trust. This is what Vicky Pryce thought she and Chris Huhne had achieved. She had obviously already had heartbreak. She had two children and a broken-down marriage when she met Huhne. She had hope but then she got dealt a bad hand.
When my last relationship broke up, all I wanted was for the Number Whatever bus to go out of control and mow my ex down. Someone asked me, at the time, what would make me happy. “A hitman,” I replied. And I meant it. My ex has also admitted that he truly wished an aeroplane would fall from the sky and obliterate me.
We feel shocked about that now, more than a year on. But back then, for both of us, we were so horrifically angry with each other that neither of us could think particularly logically. Our families and our friends meant nothing. We just wanted the other one to go away for ever and then we wouldn’t have to deal with anything.
For a while, I was filled with fire, a belly full of fire. I felt I was a gorgon, able to annihilate people with the intense white heat in the fury of my gaze. This is how Pryce felt. She wanted to expose the man who had so horribly let her down.
The public nature of it all is what doomed her, especially when it came to the children. Should Pryce have revealed Huhne to be a liar? Yet if people behave badly on a continual basis, why should someone not reveal that?
Pryce’s children are also old enough to make their own assumptions and decisions about their father. It is important to separate the issues here. Just because Pryce took the points, just because she is an intelligent woman, doesn’t mean to say she wasn’t coerced. Everyone makes sacrifices in a marriage. Sometimes, when being badgered by a persuasive, highly ambitious husband, it is, eventually, the easier path to give in – to submit to your duty to “be in this together”.
This is not excusing Pryce – or Huhne for that matter – over the nightmare that their children have been through. But it seems that one small admission started a boulder rolling down a hill gathering moss. But don’t we all understand this madness? Isn’t this what makes Pryce human? That even two people as intelligent, as savvy, as together as the Huhnes can totally destroy themselves through love and all its off-shoots. What’s amazing – reassuring, even – is that we, as humans, can act in this way. The Vicky Pryce-Chris Huhne affair is about exactly those incredible human qualities Shakespeare wrote of; love, hate, passion, loathing, anger, malice, order vs chaos.
None of us is above any of them and none of us best forget that, ever.
Lucy Cavendish’s novels include ‘Samantha Smythe’s Modern Family Journal’