In this country to be a politician is very much to be in the public eye. If you ascend to the highest heights of office you can expect to have your every move scrutinised; from the colour of the shirts you wear on holiday, to the way in which you sign of text messages to newspaper editors.
Of course the absolute worst thing any politician or public servant can do is lie – and the worst kind of lying is cheating. When a politician has an affair all hell breaks loose, The Sun have headlines running for weeks – in fact all our countries media has a field day from the serious political commentators discussing the implications of the affair on the politician’s position to the tabloids talking about what clothes the mistress would wear on her perfect Sunday.
Recently it was revealed the Francois Hollande, the president of France, has been having an affair with an actress and as a result he separated from his wife. The British media seem to be taking advantage of the seemingly dull sexual landscape of the House of Commons and are getting all excited about the sex life of the French president. However, the French people do not seem to be as concerned – when watching BBC news one could not help but assume that the interviewer could not seem to find many French citizens that actually cared – they all seemed to believe that the president’s personal life was personal and in fact were much more concerned with the mess that they perceive he is making of their country.
This seems to be very strange; one cannot imagine that happening over here: if David Cameron was caught at it there would be a media frenzy – the news would be filled with every Tom, Dick and Harry who has an opinion on the Prime minister’s integrity – and probably result in an extended press conference where he would apologise for every bad thing he has done and then end with an awkward embrace with his wife who, of course, will have forgiven him.
So why is there such a vast difference between us and the French? Why do they not take such an interest in the private lives of their politicians? I think the answer lies in what we expect of politicians – do we expect them to be people with feelings, hopes and dreams or simply administrators with no emotions? Now it is very important to point out at this point that I am not condoning Mr Hollande’s actions- I do not know the ins and outs of his private life – but I do not think that we can so easily use his infidelity as evidence that he is a bad leader. Of course one can argue that ‘once a cheater always a cheater’ and that we can then infer that he would cheat the public if he is willing to cheat on his wife.
Unfortunately, I am not particularly convinced by this logic – if someone asked me whom I would trust more as a politician, someone who had cheated on their wife or someone who had fiddled their expenses for purely monetary gain then I would choose the former. Of course this person could turn out to be an awful politician but the latter has already proved that he is deeply self-interested – a character trait that no one can deny is awful in a public servant. I think it is the case that we do not seem to see politicians as humans that have emotions, desires or feelings. This is of course then very restrictive to the kind of people we can have in politics.
If you take the film Love Actually for example, it would be ludicrous to conceive of a bachelor prime minister – what woman in their right mind would date the Prime Minister? The media attention would be horrendous. If you look at the leaders of the main three political parties they are all in stable marriages. I have nothing against this, but is this just the case because this is the perceived norm?
Look at Boris Johnson, he commands more popularity than most of the House of Commons and he is known to have had affairs – now I do not think he is a good politician by any means but that has nothing to do with his affairs. Take Russell Brand, personally I believe he has interesting points to make about democracy but the idea of him being an MP is ridiculous.
I think that we have to take an unfaithful politician with a pinch of salt, we need to realise that they are human beings just like us and we should not hold them up to ridiculous moral standards. If David Cameron was unfaithful to his wife I would not think it made him a terrible politician; he is a terrible politician because of his policies. Politicians are humans with feelings if we accepted them as such perhaps we could widen the appeal of the profession to those who do not fit the extremely narrow criteria set for them.
We can take a lesson from the people of France: we should judge politicians only on their policies and not on the basis of their private lives.