For those unaware of the center of the UK tabloid press's current media blitz, let me introduce you to the contestants. In one corner, we have disgraced ex-Minister Chris Huhne, and in the other, his former wife, Vicky Pryce. Not only did their love fade to a point where sharing the marital bed was no longer considered viable, it seems to have turned to self destructive vendettas.
Earlier this week, Chris resigned as the Secretary of State for Energy after pleading guilty to a charge of perverting the course of justice by getting his wife at that time (Vicky) to take the rap for a 2003 speeding offense that he himself had committed.
How did the police know that she had taken the rap. Because in May 2011 she held a press conference to tell the world at large that that was what had happened. She had been coerced into taking the blame.
You might observe that is not the act of a loving dutiful wife. And that is because she was no longer any such thing, In June 2010 she served divorce papers on Chris, shortly after he admitted having an affair with the campaign director of the Electoral Reform. The divorce took effect in January 2011, but Vicky waited a discrete 4 months before deciding to come clean about what had happened back in 2003. She will probably be awarded half of his personal assets, worth about $5,300,000 at today's exchange rate.
From May 2011 until February 2012, Chris stoutly denied that there was any truth in the allegations about the speeding ticket. But promptly resigned his post when formal charges were filed in February 2012 and from being a Member of Parliament when he pleaded guilty to the charges earlier this week.
The case relates to March 12, 2003, when Huhne’s black BMW, with the personalized number plate H11HNE, was clocked by a speed camera at 69mph on a 50 mph stretch of the M11. (The M11 is the British equivalent of the I-5, but a bit slower).
It was stated in court that Huhne and Pryce both agreed that she should take the points because she had a clean driving license whereas he had nine points and a speeding fine would have taken him to 12 – meaning an automatic ban. So she said she was the driver, and he escaped losing his driving license.
Chris has admitted guilt in the matter and awaits his sentence. He claims that Vicky was a willing accomplice, who simply wanted to ensure that her husband kept his driving license.
Vicky's defense is that she was coerced by a man who was such a bully that he forced her to have an abortion early in their marriage, and tried, but failed, to make her have a second one. The defense counsel takes the first to be proof that Chris is a coercer, and the prosecution the second to show that Vicky can stand up for herself.
So - since we agnostics are as fascinated by morals and ethics as much as we are by the scientific method - why did they do it?
Was Chris immoral in getting Vicky to take the blame? Absolutely. Unethical, considering that his nation needs its ministers to move freely about the country? No doubt about it - totally unethical.
What about Vicky? Ah - there's the rub. We cannot know for sure whether she was, or was not, coerced into following her husband's demands. And even if he had made any such demands, whether she should have stood firm and refused.
What we can be certain of is her motives in making such a private matter very public.
Vicky responded in an email to a reporter working on releasing the details of the misdemeanor: "I definitely want to nail him. More than ever, I would love to do it soon." The desire to harm seems to have been in the forefront of her mind, and seeing justice put right not at all important.
So, on the one hand her public spiritedness has reduced her alimony by thousands each year: and on the other, she has ruined the career of the man she has come to detest.
The question that nags us agnostics, is "does motive negate the truth'? And the best I can come up with is that a $90 3-point speeding ticket should have some sort of Statute of Limitation on it, so that after, say, 3 years the whole thing becomes a moot point. Then we shall not see the law be used to score debating points of a particular nasty nature.
But, yeah, he did do it. Ah - he as already admitted (at last) to that, so he will get his just desserts. But we agnostics still carry a nagging doubt that Vicky should not have been able to do quite as much damage as she has from this whole, sorry mess.