Eastleigh has been rocked by the news that the towns newly re-elected MP and government front bencher Chris Huhne is to leave his wife of 26 years, the Greek born economist Vicky Pryce for his former campaign press officer Carina Trimmingham.
The News of the World has reported Mr Huhne as saying “I am in a serious relationship with Carina Trimmingham and I am separating from my wife.”
This was certainly a surprise to me.
I had spent a month on the election campaign trailing around after Mr Huhne and Ms Trimmingham (as well as the other candidates) reporting for this site and for Politics.co uk.
I had seen them together at several hustings and spent a morning accompanying them as they canvassed the Nightingale Estate – an outing which Carina had arranged for me. Read report
Although it was clear that Carina was effectively running Chris’s campaign on the ground and was never more than a few paces from his side, at no time did I see any suggestion that their relationship was anything other than a professional one.
Carina Trimmingham struck me as a capable and efficient organiser and a PR career woman one who was more than able to keep up with Chris Huhne’s punishing schedule – he is extraordinarily hard campaigner and its probably quite fitting he became ‘energy’ minister
With hindsight we are always the wiser and looking back it’s possible to convince oneself there were signs that feelings may have run deeper.
It was at the last hustings at a local college that I noticed a change in Carina’s expression as Tory candidate Maria Hutchings –a feisty and outspoken opponent – launched a spirited attack ion Chris Huhne and Lib Dem policies in general.
I noticed Miss Trimmingham’s jaw drop and her face contort with what seemed like pain as she shook her head while Ms Hutchings hit her stride – I didn’t feel this was just in disagreement at what was being said – it seemed to me that she was genuinely upset for Mr Huhne.
I recall thinking at the time that perhaps not all pro hacks were as single minded and as hard hearted as one is lead to believe.
Just how this will play out in the press and with the public is unclear although Eastleigh News has already received emails from constituents – admittedly Conservative supporters – calling for his resignation from the cabinet and even as an MP.
The Lib Con cabinet has already had one high profile resignation in David Laws.
That case however, concerned the use of public funds.
Separation is not the matter it once was and it is likely that Mr Huhne will survive this unscathed while his Liberal Democrats supporters here in Eastleigh will rally round.
But there is already discontent amongst the Labour voters in Eastleigh who were persuaded to vote Liberal Democrat in the expectation that should the election result in a hung parliament – then the Liberal Democrats would look to form a coalition with the Labour Party.
Their continued support in any future election cannot be taken for granted.
Another sizeable contingent of voters in the borough are the fundamentalist evangelical Christians.
The most well attended hustings of the campaign was organised by St Thomas’s Church when all the candidates were anxious to display their moral standing and Christian beliefs. Read report
Speaking to the congregation afterwards many emphasised how important politics which reflected Christian family values were to them.
It’s hard to see how news of an affair will go down well here.
Adultery being after all, one of the things God says thou shalt not commit.
However the government have made it quite clear they intend to stay for the long term and this affair may well have been forgotten by the time the next election comes round.
Are you upset or feeling let down by Chris Huhne? Will this affect the way you might vote in future? Do you feel the distractions of his marital difficulties might interfere with his ministerial capabilities? Or do you take the view that everyone is entitled to a private life and that Chris Huhne is more than able to separate his private life from his public duties?
Tell us what you think!