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Chris Huhne MP

Assumed office 
20 December 2007
Leader Nick Clegg
Preceded by Nick Clegg

In office
3 March 2006 – 19 December 2007
Leader Menzies Campbell
Preceded by Norman Baker
Succeeded by Steve Webb

In office
16 May 2005 – 3 March 2006
Leader Charles Kennedy
Preceded by David Laws
Succeeded by Colin Breed

Member of Parliament
for Eastleigh
Assumed office 
5 May 2005
Preceded by David Chidgey
Majority 568 (1.1%)

In office
10 June 1999 – 12 May 2005
Preceded by new constituency
Succeeded by Sharon Bowles

Born 2 July 1954 (1954-07-02) (age 55)
Westminster, London
Nationality British
Political party Liberal Democrats
Spouse(s) Vicky Pryce
Alma mater Magdalen College, Oxford

Christopher Murray Paul "Chris" Huhne (born 2 July 1954) is a British Liberal Democrat politician and the current Member of Parliament for the Eastleigh constituency in Hampshire. He is a member of the Lib Dem Shadow Cabinet in the House of Commons.

He finished second to Sir Menzies Campbell in the 2006 election for the leadership of the Liberal Democrats[1] and was one of the two candidates in the 2007 contest to succeed Campbell as party leader and came second again, with the party members preferring Nick Clegg by a narrow margin of 1.2%.


Early life

He was educated at Westminster School and at the Sorbonne where he obtained a certificate in French Language and Civilisation, and Magdalen College, Oxford where he was a scholar (Demy). At Oxford, he edited the student magazine Isis, served on the executive of the Oxford University Labour Club, and achieved a first-class degree in PPE (Philosophy, Politics and Economics). Huhne was active in student politics.

Before his political career, he was a City economist, founding what became one of the largest teams of economists in the private sector. He founded Sovereign Ratings IBCA in 1994; in 1997 became managing director of Fitch IBCA, and from 1999 to 2003 was vice-chairman of Fitch Ratings. Before that, Huhne was an economic commentator for The Guardian, The Independent and The Independent on Sunday. He was the business editor – head of department – on The Independent and The Independent on Sunday notably during its investigations into Robert Maxwell's fraud on the Mirror group pension fund. He started in journalism as an undercover freelance reporter in India during Mrs Gandhi's emergency when western journalists had been expelled. He also worked as a journalist for the Liverpool Daily Post and Liverpool Echo and The Economist. He won both the junior and senior Wincott awards for financial journalist of the year (in 1980 and 1989 respectively).[2]

Huhne contested the 1983 general election as a Parliamentary Candidate for the SDP-Liberal Alliance in Reading East. In the 1987 general election, he was the SDP-Liberal Alliance candidate in the Oxford West and Abingdon seat and turned it for the first time into a marginal. The seat was won ten years later by Evan Harris.

Member of European Parliament

Huhne was elected as a member of the European Parliament for South East England from 1999 to 2005, where he was deputy leader of the Liberal Democrat group in the European Parliament. While coming second in the regional poll of party members to select candidates for the 1999 Euro election, Huhne came a comfortable first in the selection for the 2004 Euro elections.

During his time in the European Parliament, Huhne was the only Liberal Democrat MEP in a ranking by The Economist of the three most high-profile UK MEPs (the others being Glenys Kinnock and Caroline Lucas). He was a member of the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, concerned with economic and financial policy including regulation of the financial sector. He was economic spokesman for the pan-European Liberal group in the European Parliament and was responsible for introducing "sunset clauses" – time limits on powers – into European legislation for the first time; for radically amending Commission proposals on financial services; and for opening up the European Central Bank to greater scrutiny.

In addition to his European Parliament responsibilities, he was also active in the development of Liberal Democrat policy as chairman of four policy groups: broadcasting and the media; globalisation; the introduction of the euro and the reform of public services. On public services, he argues that money was a necessary condition of improvement, but that the key is now decentralised and democratic control. Local voters need to be able to hold local decision-takers to account.

Member of Parliament

He was first elected to represent Eastleigh at the general election on 5 May 2005, a constituency within the area for which he was previously the Member of the European Parliament. The previous MP for the constituency, David Chidgey, was also a Liberal Democrat who won his seat in what was historically a Conservative area in a by-election in 1994 following the accidental death of Stephen Milligan. The result in 2005 was close, with the swing away from the Liberal Democrats being half the average swing away when a Liberal Democrat MP stands down.

Charles Kennedy made Huhne a Treasury spokesman for the party. In this role Huhne led the opposition in the House of Commons to new rules allowing full top-rate tax relief for the purchase of second homes, buy-to-let properties, vintage wine and other exotic assets for self-invested personal pension schemes (SIPPS), tabling an amendment to the finance bill in June, and repeatedly raising the issue. The Treasury reversed its position and accepted these points in the October Pre-Budget Report.


Leadership contest, 2006

Huhne stood against Sir Menzies Campbell and Simon Hughes for the Liberal Democrat leadership after Charles Kennedy's resignation, formally launching his campaign on 13 January 2006.

Huhne was able to carve out a unique position on the issue of green taxation – he argued for a radical expansion of taxes on pollution, allowing for reductions in the income tax rate on the lowest paid.[3] This theme endeared Huhne to environmentalists and market liberals alike, allowing him to gain a march on his rivals and pick up supporters as the campaign went on. He also argued for a repeal of elements of the Labour government's anti-terrorism legislation, which many felt had undermined British civil liberties, and for the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq within a year. He described himself as a 'social liberal'.[4]

Although the majority of Liberal Democrat MPs — and much of the party establishment — declared their support for Sir Menzies Campbell, Huhne did receive endorsements from some party notables including Lord Maclennan and Lord Rodgers. Amongst the media, The Economist, The Independent and The Independent on Sunday supported his leadership bid. He was backed from an early stage by a number of bloggers, and gained much momentum from a sharp internet campaign.

In the final vote, Huhne finished runner-up, trailing by 21,628 votes to Sir Menzies Campbell's 29,697. The brevity of the campaign was not helpful to an outsider in an all-member ballot, and Huhne was still gathering momentum when the leadership race ended.[5] Campbell appointed him as Liberal Democrat environment spokesman in the subsequent frontbench reshuffle, in order for Huhne to develop a viable programme to expand on his green campaign themes.[6]

Environment spokesman, 2006-2007

The intellectual energy surrounding Huhne's leadership campaign did much to inform the Liberal Democrats' recent political agenda. His proposals for realigning green taxes and income tax - the green tax switch - were at the heart of the fiscal package endorsed at the party's September 2006 conference.[7]

Huhne has continued developing his party's thoughts on climate change and the environment, including a consideration of the challenges and opportunities they create for British businesses.[8] He has also been prominent in critiquing the divergence between the Conservative Party's recent environmental rhetoric and its policies.[9]

Huhne was one of fourteen MPs forming an all-party parliamentary inquiry into anti-Semitism in the UK. Their report criticised boycotts of Israeli academics as "an assault on academic freedom and intellectual exchange" and accused "some left-wing activists and Muslim extremists [...] of using criticism of Israel as 'a pretext' for spreading hatred against British Jews".[10] Huhne is, however, a critic of Israeli government policy in the Middle East, and strongly supports the creation of a separate Palestinian state. He described the Israeli response in Lebanon to Hezbollah's rocket attacks as disproportionate and counter-productive, arguing that a strong Lebanese state is in Israel's long-term interest.

In March 2007 it was falsely reported that he had written to executives at Channel 4 to try and stop them showing The Great Global Warming Swindle.[11] In an e-mail exchange with Iain Dale, Mr Huhne stated that he only wrote to ask for the channel's comments[12] and The Daily Telegraph later ran a correction and apologised for the misunderstanding saying they were happy to accept that "Mr Huhne's letter was not an attempt to prevent the film being shown or suppress debate on the issue".[13]

After Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, Nick Clegg, announced his intention during the 2007 party conference to stand for the leadership when Sir Menzies Campbell retires — widely seen as a swipe at Campbell's leadership — Chris Huhne issued a rebuke to journalists and observed that there is presently "no vacancy, and it would be premature to even talk about the position of there being a vacancy".[14]

Leadership contest, 2007

Following the resignation of Sir Menzies Campbell on 15 October 2007 — and following on from Huhne's strong performances in the 2006 contest and as environment spokesman — it was widely assumed that he would run for the leadership of the Liberal Democrats. On 17 October, Huhne became the first member of the party to announce his candidacy, declaring his vision of a "fairer and greener society".[15]

On 28 October 2007, Huhne announced that he had secured the support of 10 of his 62 parliamentary colleagues for his formal nomination including 4 of the 16 Lib Dem Liberal Democrat Frontbench Team. (His rival Clegg announced the support of 33 MPs[16] and 12 frontbench team members.) Huhne also claimed backing from at least 12 peers, four MSPs and three Welsh Assembly members. After former Lib Dem leader Lord Ashdown announced his support for Clegg, a previous Lib Dem leader Lord Steel declared his support for Huhne based in part on Huhne's position on the Trident missile system.[17]

In the last week of campaigning his team were bullish about his chances, predicting a win.[18] He came very close to making the prediction a reality, but in the end the party membership chose his rival Nick Clegg by a narrow margin of 511 votes.[19][20]

About 1,300 postal votes were caught up in the Christmas post and missed the election deadline. An unofficial check of the late papers showed Huhne had enough votes among them to hand him victory. Huhne stood by the result, saying "Nick Clegg won fair and square on the rules counting the ballot papers that arrived in by the deadline. There is no question of any re-run."[21]

Following the leadership election, Clegg chose Huhne to be the Lib Dem's Home Affairs Spokesman.[22]

Criticism and controversies

Huhne has dealt with several controversies and criticisms during his political career.

Drug advocacy in 1973

A news story in The Sunday Times on 21 October 2007[23] disclosed that an article credited to Huhne had appeared in the University of Oxford's Isis magazine in February 1973 stating that drugs such as opium, LSD, and amphetamines were an “accepted facet of our society”. It included the assertion “Opium is available in Oxford and, in its natural form can be safely experimented with.” In response to questions by The Times about his 1973 pronouncement, Huhne responded “To be honest I don’t have any memory of it,” insisting that he was entitled to a private life before politics. The controversy about the 1973 article continued in the Daily Mail[24] and The Sun.[25] In an interview published on the Kent News website on 10 November 2007, Huhne distanced himself from his university views, saying “I clearly regret the views and I don’t agree with those views at all. I was a teenager and I’m now 53 and I think all of us do tend to move on in life.”[26]

Traffic conviction

Huhne was convicted in 2003 under The Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Act (Amendment No. 4)[27][28] of using a hand held phone while driving his car on a busy London street. Following his conviction, he was banned from driving for three months.[29]

Allegation of abusing EU election funds

A news story on BBC TV’s Newsnight on 17 February 2006[30] reported allegations by former Conservative MEP Edward Kellett-Bowman that Huhne had illegally used European Parliament expenses to finance four newspapers distributed to promote his candidacy for the British Parliament in the 2005 General Election – a use of funds prohibited by regulations governing MEPs. Huhne appeared on the show and denied the allegations. A European Parliament investigation found insufficient evidence to press charges and the matter was dropped.

Investments and share holdings

A news story in The Independent on 27 February 2006[31] reported that an unsigned document titled "Chris Huhne's Hypocritical Personal Share Portfolio" was being circulated at Lib Dem leadership election meetings, alleging that Huhne had invested in companies that the document described as "unethical". The document stated "Chris Huhne is campaigning for the Lib Dem leadership on a green, carbon neutral platform, and further advocates increasing tax for the wealthy, which would include himself. However, his shareholdings include, or have included, mining companies, oil companies, and tax shelters."

Huhne has spoken of the need to "roll back [Labour's] security-obsessed surveillance state". He holds shares - listed on the Register of Members' Interests - in UK company IRISYS, which specialises in producing thermal imagers "for process, people and queue monitoring"[32] and "which sells cameras to let shops count their customers."[33]

Controversial comments about the Speaker of the House of Commons

On 6 November 2007, Huhne made remarks about the Speaker of the House of Commons on the BBC television programme Newsnight in which he claimed that the Speaker (Michael Martin) had fallen asleep during a speech by the Prime Minister Gordon Brown. "The Speaker unfortunately fell asleep during Gordon Brown's speech  ... I'm not sure I'm allowed to say that, but he reacted in an entirely understandable way to what was not the most riveting of parliamentary occasions."[34] After the remarks were repeated in several publications, Huhne made a public apology to the Speaker in the House Of Commons on 8 November in which he withdrew his prior comments. “It was wrong of me to draw the Chair into a matter of political dispute. I hope you will accept I intended no personal offence and fully withdraw my comments.”[35]

Expenses claims

Chris Huhne said to have claimed for various items including groceries, fluffy dusters and a trouser press. Huhne said he would repay the cost of the trouser press in order "to avoid controversy".[36] He later claimed on a live Channel 4 news programme that he needed the trouser press to "look smart" for work.[37]

Appearance on Question Time with Nick Griffin of the BNP

As Home Affairs Spokesman, on 22 October 2009 Huhne represented the Lib Dems on a controversial edition of Question Time marking the first ever appearance of far right British National Party leader Nick Griffin.

Personal life

Huhne married a Greek-born economist Vicky Pryce (presently Chief Economist in the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform) in 1984 after she divorced her first husband with whom she had had two daughters.[38][39] Huhne and Pryce have had three children together.[40]

Huhne owns seven houses – five that are let as rental properties and two in which he lives. (One in Eastleigh, his constituency, and a town house in Clapham, south London).[41]

Huhne is a member of the European Movement, Green Lib Dems, Association of Liberal Democrat Trade Unionists and the National Union of Journalists.


He has written four books that are mainly on the themes either of third world debt and development or European integration: the latest is entitled Both Sides of the Coin (1999, with James Forder), in which he argues the case for British membership of the Euro. The first was Debt and Danger, an analysis of the 1984 third world debt crisis co-written with Lord Harold Lever, the former Labour cabinet minister.

He was also a contributor to the Orange Book (2004), in which he advocates reforms to the United Nations and international governance. Huhne was critical of the most controversial article in the Orange Book, in which David Laws proposed an insurance-based National Health Service. He did not take part in the successor volume, Britain after Blair and has voiced dismay at the way its predecessor was presented as a break with the party's social liberal traditions.

More recently, he contributed to the book The City in Europe and the World (2005) and two articles to Reinventing the State (2007) edited by Duncan Brack, Richard Grayson and David Howarth. These cover the case for localism in which Huhne argues that there is no contradiction between localism and equality, and the need for environmental policy to tackle climate change.

Huhne has also written articles for the Financial Times, The Guardian, The Independent and the New Statesman.[42]


  1. ^ "Sir Menzies wins Lib Dem contest". BBC News. 2 March 2006. Retrieved 2007-12-19.  
  2. ^ The Wincott Foundation
  3. ^ Matthew Tempest (13 January 2006). "Huhne stands on green platform". The Guardian.,,1685727,00.html. Retrieved 2007-11-21.  
  4. ^ "You ask the questions: Chris Huhne, Liberal Democrat leadership contender". The Independent. 22 October 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-20.  
  5. ^ "Survey boosts Huhne's hopes". Guardian Unlimited. 25 February 2006.,,1717659,00.html. Retrieved 2007-12-20.  
  6. ^ "Campbell fills top Lib Dem posts". BBC News. 6 March 2006. Retrieved 2007-11-19.  
  7. ^ Chris Huhne (19 September 2006). "Summation speech from Tax Debate". Retrieved 2007-11-21.  
  8. ^ Chris Huhne (9 May 2006). "Climate Change and the Challenge for Business". Retrieved 2007-11-21.  
  9. ^ Chris Huhne (27 April 2007). "Blue won't be green". The Guardian.,,2066756,00.html. Retrieved 2007-11-19.  
  10. ^ Ned Temko (2006-09-03). "Critics of Israel 'fuelling hatred of British Jews'". The Observer.,,1863836,00.html. Retrieved 2007-11-21.  
  11. ^ Janet Daley (12 March 2007). "Green lobby must not stifle the debate". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2007-11-21.  
  12. ^ Iain Dale (12 March 2007). "Chris Huhne - The Mary Whitehouse of the Climate Change debate". Retrieved 2007-11-21.  
  13. ^ Telegraph correction about Huhne comments Accessed 6 April 2007
  14. ^ Deborah Summers and Ros Taylor (19 September 2007). "Clegg admits leadership ambitions". The Guardian.,,2172352,00.html. Retrieved 2007-11-19.  
  15. ^ "Huhne launches leadership battle". BBC News website. 17 October 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-19.  
  16. ^ Tania Branigan (1 November 2007). "Huhne woos the left as Lib Dem leadership nominations close". The Guardian.,,2202783,00.html. Retrieved 2007-12-19.  
  17. ^ "Clegg MPs' favourite for Lib Dem leadership". icWales. 28 October 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-19.  
  18. ^ Rosa Prince (17 December 2007). "Chris Huhne prepares for a surprise win". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2007-12-19.  
  19. ^ Rosa Prince (19 December 2007). "Nick Clegg narrowly wins Lib Dem leadership". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2007-12-19.  
  20. ^ Jane Merrick Meet the real leader of the Liberal Democrats Independent on Sunday 6 April 2008
  21. ^ MP Huhne stands by Lib Dem leadership election results The Southern Daily Echo 7 April 2008
  22. ^ BBC (20 December 2007). "Clegg reveals his frontbench team". BBC. Retrieved 2007-12-20.  
  23. ^ Daniel Foggo and Roger Waite (21 October 2007). "LSD article plays tricks on Huhne’s mind". The Sunday Times (London). Retrieved 2007-11-19.  
  24. ^ Kirsty Walker (21 October 2007). "Lib Dem hopeful Huhne 'can't remember' writing article calling for tolerance of LSD and opium". Daily Mail. Retrieved 2007-11-19.  
  25. ^ "Lib Dem row over LSD article". The Sun. 22 October 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-19.  
  26. ^ "How Brazier hosed down the student radicals". Kent News. 10 November 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-19.  
  27. ^ "The Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) (Amendment) (No. 4) Regulations 2003". Her Majesty's Stationery Office. 2003. Retrieved 2007-11-19.  
  28. ^ "Hands off ! Mobile Phone Regulations published.". RAC Foundation. 27 October 2003. Retrieved 2007-11-19.  
  29. ^ Rhodri Phillips (10 November 2007). "£1 m a month from motorists fined for using their mobiles". Daily Mail. Retrieved 2007-11-19.  
  30. ^ Iain Dale (17 February 2006). "Michael Crick Accuses Chris Huhne". Iain Dale's Diary. Retrieved 2007-11-19.  
  31. ^ Guy Adams (27 February 2006). "Pandora: It gets dirtier: Huhne's private interests targeted". The Independent. Retrieved 2007-11-19.  
  32. ^ Listing of MP interests
  33. ^ "Huhne shares revealed". Daily Telegraph. 28 February 2006. Retrieved 2007-11-19.  
  34. ^ Celia Walden (9 November 2007). "Spy". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2007-11-19.  
  35. ^ Hugo Rifkind (9 November 2007). "People". The Times (London). Retrieved 2007-11-19.  
  36. ^ Rayner, Gordon. "Daily Telegraph: Chris Huhne (13 May 2009)". Retrieved 2009-05-13.  
  37. ^ British politics stares into the abyss - Channel 4 News
  38. ^ Ned Temko (12 February 2006). "The woman who backs Chris Huhne". The Observer.,,1708163,00.html. Retrieved 2007-11-19.  
  39. ^ Fran Yeoman (20 October 2007). "Lib Dem wives: Can you spot the difference?". The Times (London). Retrieved 2007-11-19.  
  40. ^ "Profile: Chris Huhne". BBC News. 2 March 2006. Retrieved 2007-11-19.  
  41. ^ Colin Brown and Ben Russell (18 October 2007]). "Huhne: 'We must be radical but rational – you won't see me streaking down the street'". The Independent. Retrieved 2007-11-19.  
  42. ^ "Register of Members' Interests: Christopher Huhne MP, Eastleigh". Retrieved 2007-11-19.  

External links

Offices held

European Parliament
Preceded by
(new constituency)
Member of European Parliament for South East England
Succeeded by
Sharon Bowles
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
David Chidgey
Member of Parliament for Eastleigh

Simple English

Chris Huhne

Christopher Murray-Paul Huhne (born 2 July 1954) is Britain's Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. He decides on the most efficient ways of having electricity and other important resources in Britain. There was an article in the newspaper that said Chris wanted to have more nuclear power stations. A lot of people think this is wrong.


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