Saturday, March 09, 2013

Two reputations shattered - The Pryce of revenge

I don't want to add significantly to the distress already suffered by ex-MP Chris Huhne and his ex-wife Vicky Pryce. Having both been found guilty of offences after she agreed to "take" his speeding points, they are now both behind bars. Their relationship, and their connection with their children has been exposed starkly in well-reported trials at Southwark crown court.

Huhne was snapped by my local speed camera at the bottom of the M11 in 2003. The camera itself has become a cause célèbre for raking in over half a million pounds a year in fines, and being the most "lucrative" in the country, but that's another story. No-one outside the Huhne-Pryce family apparently knew until 2010, when Mr Huhne revealed his affair with his PR adviser, Carina Trimingham. It was revealed in court that Ms Pryce then spoke to reporters about the case, and after initially blaming a constituency aide, revealed that it was her that took the points. A plan was created to try to persuade Mr Huhne to incriminate himself in recorded phone calls, but finally Ms Pryce ended up in court just after her ex-husband.

So what are the lessons here? Honesty comes first, obviously. Not only should it come first, it should come early. If Chris Huhne had simply admitted his speeding transgression, he would have been banned, and it would barely have merited a paragraph on page 27. His political career would have been virtually unscathed. Time and time again public figures have been brought down by an attempt to cover up an embarrassing issue, when immediate admission would have been a route to redemption.

And what of the attempt by Ms Pryce to put her husband in the dock while trying to avoid revealing her role? If revenge was her motive, it has clearly backfired. This highlights another prime rule of reputation management - if you go to the media with a story, be prepared for your own behaviour to be scrutinised. That may not always be fair, but if you have done nothing wrong, you'll be fine.

Of course, the prime rule is not to do anything that may damage your reputation, but we're all fallible. Whatever happens, talk about it early, talk about it yourself, and the storm will blow over much more quickly.

Picture Credit - Creative Commons

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