Chris Huhne was first elected Westminster MP for Eastleigh in May 2005. He was runner-up in the contest for leadership of the Liberal Democrats following the resignation of Charles Kennedy in January 2006. Chris is now the Liberal Democrats’ Shadow Secretary for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Chris was the pan-european Liberal group’s economic spokesman while a member of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2006, and previously spent nineteen years as a journalist on the Guardian, Independent and the Independent on Sunday and then five years founding and building up one of the largest teams of economists in the City of London.
Educated at Westminster School, the Sorbonne in Paris and Magdalen College, Oxford, Chris Huhne took a first-class degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE). After leaving university Chris won his trade union card as a journalist with undercover reporting from India during Mrs Indira Gandhi’s state of emergency, when other foreign journalists had been expelled. In 1977 he became Britain’s youngest staff foreign correspondent when The Economist posted him to Brussels. Chris wrote an award-winning economics column every week for ten years, first for The Guardian and then The Independent on Sunday. He won the Wincott Award as Financial Journalist of the Year 1990.
In 1994 Chris founded, and subsequently headed, what was to become one of the City of London’s biggest teams of economists, rating the risks of overseas investments for pension funds and other investors.
A founder member of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Chris contested an Islington council seat in 1982, and in 1983 stood for Parliament for the first time, as SDP-Liberal Alliance candidate in Reading East. At the 1987 General Election he was SDP-Liberal Alliance candidate for Oxford West and Abingdon, a seat later won for the Liberal Democrats by Evan Harris. Although work commitments meant Chris had to stand down as candidate, Chris remained active in the party, for example chairing the policy group on broadcasting and the press and acting as economic adviser during the 1997 election campaign.
In 1999 Chris won election to the European Parliament as a Liberal Democrat MEP for South East England. His achievements in the European Parliament included the first introduction of ‘sunset clauses’ - time limiting the powers of the European Commission - in European legislation; the radical amendment of Commission proposals for financial services which would have penalised small business; and opening the Central European Bank to closer scrutiny by obliging it to publish forecasts every six months.
In addition to his work in the European Parliament - and writing a weekly column for the business pages of the Evening Standard - Chris was also at this time very active in the development of Liberal Democrat policy. He chaired the Liberal Democrat Public Services Policy Commission covering health and education; the expert group advising on entry to the the Euro; and the policy panel on global sustainability, stability and security.
At the 2005 General Election Chris succeeded in holding the Eastleigh seat won for the Liberal Democrats by the retiring incumbent, David Chidgey. At Westminster Charles Kennedy, as party leader, asked Chris to take on the role of Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, dealing with tax and public spending, ensuring that the party’s figures added up and that its tax policies were fully credible.
When Charles Kennedy resigned the leadership in January 2006, Chris decided to offer himself as a candidate in the leadership contest. Though originally regarded as an outsider, he quickly gathered support, and in the event emerged as runner-up to the winner in the leadership election, Menzies Campbell. As Chris’s energetic leadership election campaign had highlighted the need for energy conservation, the reduction of carbon emissions and the importance of environmentally friendly ‘eco-taxes’ to combat global warming and climate change, Chris was invited to become Shadow Secretary for the Environment, Food and Rural affairs in the reshuffle which followed Ming's victory.
Chris has written books on Third World debt and development, European integration and general economics. He became persuaded of the importance of environmental policy when he saw at first hand the deforestation and desertification of Tanzania in 1978, and he was an early advocate of the importance of tackling climate change – “first and foremost among the environmental threats” – in his 1990 book Real World Economics. His case in favour of British membership of the Euro was published in Both Sides of the Coin in 1999. Chris has contributed to many collections of political essays, including an essay on globalisation and reform of the United Nations to the Orange Book: Reclaiming Liberalism. He also contributed to The City in Europe and the World, published in 2005.
Chris is married to Vicky Pryce, Chief Economist at the Department of Trade and Industry. They have five children, three now grown up. Chris and his wife are both passionate filmgoers, and Chris says he is an eclectic listener to music, enjoying anything from rock and jazz to his favourite, Mozart.