Monday, October 17, 2005

That Cameron Controversy

The argument that politicians are entitled to a private life, both in respect of their current personal lives and their past conduct, is a very seductive one and most people seem to be convinced by it. All my instincts lead me to agree with it too.
But hang on.
Making laws that will govern other people's lives, often restricting their lives, sometimes causing great hardship in the cause of what is believed to be the greater good - that is an awesome responsibility. Most of us, even if we hold strong opinions, would shie away from it because we don't have the massive egos and unshakeable self-belief of most politicians.
It seems to me that such a responsibility places politicians, certainly those who are lawmakers, in a completely different category when it comes to personal privacy.
Of course, a policy of complete openness should apply only to behaviour that has a relevance to public policy-making and not to the irrelevant trivia of people's lives.

Another reason for openness is that we know from long experience of the hypocrisy and double standards that some politicians are capable of. Preaching family values while having multiple affairs. Voting against gay rights when gay themselves.
Tony Blair, as you'd expect, provides some striking examples of this. Urging people to give their children the MMR jab but refusing to say if Leo had it on grounds of family privacy. Insisting on his children's privacy yet doing that standard photocall with his children - in their best suits and ties - at every General Election. Most shockingly, striking a bargain with ITN before the 1997 election, whereby they agreed to remove something from an interview in exchange for some personal footage of his children.

Being open about past behaviour has the advantage of killing press speculation stone dead. When it doesn't, it's usually because someone has come out the woodwork to say that the version you gave was not entirely truthful or complete.
It can also work to your advantage in showing that you have a direct and personal understanding of an issue. This would be the case with David Cameron if he had smoked cannabis at university or even tried a Class A drug.

An amusing episode on the periphery of the Cameron story was when Peter Sissons was questioning one of the BBC's junior political reporters about the issue. "You were also at Eton", he said to him, "were drugs all the rage when you were there?"
The reporter neatly sidestepped this mishievous question, as he was perfectly entitled to do, not being a legislator.

But it does the raise the question of why upper-class toffs taking cocaine at Oxbridge or in the City is viewed rather differently from kids in inner cities doing the same thing. I suppose the key difference is that the former are wealthy enough not to have to go out robbing to pay for a fix.
The wealthy upper classes have always inhabited a different moral universe, one where marital infidelity was accepted and divorce, at a price, was possible long before it was universally available throughout society. A combination of wealth and a social code that placed a strong emphasis on discretion and not doing things in front of the servants has always given them great freedom.
It was within my own lifetime that the jury in the Lady Chatterley case were asked 'but would you want your servants to read it?' Today the view might be that a snort of Charlie at a party is no big deal but you wouldn't want the au pair snorting lines off the ironing board in front of the children.

1 Comments:

At 8:55 PM, Anonymous Graham said...

The whole Cameron/Drugs debate is a complete farce.It's a misinformation excersise by his rivals in a vain attempt to get the good old bloke Clarke elected.
Who gives a flying F**Ck anyway they are all as bad as each other.
Labour,Tory,Lib dem, all with their snouts in the bucket.. If they are not coked out their brains its pissed as a newt Bollocks to the lot of them.

 

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