UK Politics

Profile: Chris Huhne

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Media captionA look at Chris Huhne's political career

The former Liberal Democrat climate change secretary Chris Huhne has been sentenced to eight months in jail after pleading guilty to perverting the course of justice, bringing an end to his career in top level politics.

No-one could accuse Chris Huhne of lacking ambition - or the confidence to speak his mind.

Before he stood down from the cabinet in February 2012, the Liberal Democrat climate change secretary waged several high-profile battles with his Conservative colleagues.

Image caption Chris Huhne arriving at court before pleading guilty

Prior to that he managed to rile his eventual party leader, Nick Clegg.

But, partly because of his fighting qualities, there was never much doubt that he would be chosen as part of the four-man team which reached the coalition deal with the Tories in 2010.

The author of four books, his keen intellect has always been allied to a sense of determination.

Huhne was born in 1954 to a life of privilege. The son of the TV and film actress Ann Murray, he attended the fee-paying Westminster School, also the alma mater of Mr Clegg.

He was reportedly known as Christopher Paul-Huhne at Oxford, where he gained a first-class degree in politics, philosophy and economics.

As a former financial journalist who went on to make a fortune in the City, Huhne is thought to be a millionaire several times over. In 1994 he founded one of the largest teams of economists in the City of London, rating the risks of overseas investments for pension funds and other investors.

He and ex-wife Vicky Pryce owned several houses, some of which were let out as rental properties.

'Calamity Clegg'

Huhne became a Member of the European Parliament in 1999, but he found getting to Westminster harder than succeeding in business, failing to win a seat at the 1983 and 1987 elections.

He succeeded in Eastleigh, Hampshire, in 2005.

Within months of arriving in Parliament, he was challenging for the leadership of his party, after the resignation of Charles Kennedy.

Image caption There were tensions in the Lib Dem leadership contest against Nick Clegg

He lost out to Sir Menzies Campbell but he went on to challenge Nick Clegg for the top job two years later, missing out by the slenderest of margins.

Their relationship must have come under strain during the combative 2007 leadership campaign, when a briefing note entitled "Calamity Clegg" from the Huhne camp was put down to an "over-zealous researcher".

The pair made up and Huhne was promoted to Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman. It was a role he held until the 2010 general election.

Having kept his seat, Huhne was one of the party's team of four which negotiated the coalition agreement with the Conservatives.

He was rewarded with a seat at the cabinet table as energy and climate change secretary - with the job of delivering on David Cameron's promise to lead the "greenest" government in history.

AV anger

But a month later, his personal life hit the headlines when he confirmed he was splitting from his wife of 25 years, the economist Vicky Pryce, and had started a relationship with Carina Trimingham, a media consultant who had been on his leadership campaign team.

The affair did not appear to harm him politically and in 2011 he shot to the top of the leadership betting after a series of outspoken attacks on the Conservatives in the run-up to the referendum on changing the voting system.

Like many senior Lib Dems, he was angry about what he saw as underhand tactics by the No campaign, whom he accused of spreading lies about the cost of changing to the alternative vote system and smears against Mr Clegg.

The attacks culminated in a showdown at cabinet, with Huhne reportedly slapping two No campaign leaflets containing attacks on Mr Clegg on the table and challenging Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne to sack any Conservative activists involved in producing them.

No-one doubted Huhne's anger but many suspected he was also positioning himself for another tilt at the party leadership, should the coalition fall apart.

But, after pleading guilty to perverting the course of justice over claims his ex-wife Vicky Pryce - who was found guilty of the same offence after a trial - took speeding points for him a decade ago, Huhne says his political career is "very clearly over".

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