Sunday, January 23, 2011

Does anyone think about the kids when tabloids print intrusive stories?

In the last three days, we've had two tabloid newspaper "exposes" of extra marital affairs - today it's Tom Strathclyde, leader of the Tories in the House of Lords, the other day it was Laura Johnson, wife of former Shadow Chancellor Alan who has supposedly had an affair with her bodyguard. I don't think there's any public interest in Strathclyde's case, and there certainly isn't in Johnson's - she is accountable to none of us. 

What strikes me is that both of these people have young children, not far off the age of my daughter. How awful must it be for them to read those things about their parents? And what about the effect that it may have on their treatment by their classmates?  It's not as if the behaviour of their parents is any of our business. 

Politicians are human beings. Their families already make incredible sacrifices. Kids grow up only seeing their MP fathers and mothers a few days a week. Spouses have to raise the kids pretty much by themselves because of the all consuming nature of the job. The potential for tensions in that sort of situation is pretty high.

Being 10, or 11, or 14, is hard enough - you're facing quite a lot of transitions. If your parents aren't getting on, then that's stressful enough but having the intimate details of their personal lives broadcast on the pages of the gutter press is exruciatingly embarrassing. And it's not as if newspapers become tomorrow's chip wrappings like they used to in the olden days. Every salacious detail is there, accessible for all time via a bit of Googling.

The papers don't hold back on those intimate details, either. They can make the removal of a tie sound like deviant behaviour, infer that nudity is shocking, when actually it's quite common for people in that situation, married or not. Of course if there isn't nudity, and, for example, the presence of a football shirt or socks, then that's presented as something for us all to laugh at too. 

I found the way the Strathclyde story was reported was highly patronising to women. There is no suggestion that this was anything other than a consensual liaison, yet it's being presented in a way that suggests that he's taken advantage of her. She's a grown up. She's known him for years. She had a choice and she has to take responsibility for her actions.

Tom Strathclyde and Laura Johnson aren't the first people to have affairs and they sure as hell won't be the last. Their spouses and kids have every right to be pissed off with them, but it's none of our business. There may be a case for exposing hypocrisy, or financial impropriety but in the normal scheme of things, a politician's private life should stay just that. You can't legislate for that - a free press is fundamental to a civilised society even if it's not always a sensible one - but we can choose not to buy the papers who print this sort of nonsense. 

Next time you see an account of an illicit affair, think of the effect of this unwarranted and unnecessary intrusion on the poor kids.


Don said...

" I don't think there's any public interest in Strathclyde's case, and there certainly isn't in Johnson's"

I'm not so sure Caron.
Strathclyde has often pontificated on the importance of family and told us off for our lack of family values. He was using his position to influence us while we didn't know that he was a hypocrite and a liar. He benefited with praise and respect when he wasn't entitled to it. His mistress was attempting to get him to influence the law on the CSA and he may have been open to blackmail.
Johnson had an important job as Shadow Chancellor while his wife was sleeping with his police driver. This couldn't go on. If his driver wasn't trustworthy ( and seemingly is a serial offender in adultery) surely anything that Johnson said could now be sold to newspapers etc. Especially when Johnson was was in power last year.
Politicians are paid well because we accept that they give up privacy to serve their country. Everything that has happened to the two families was brought on themselves.

Fred said...

I've no idea why newspapers even think this kind of story is in the public interest. I think its about high time we had some form of privacy law in order to stop newspapers dragging peoples personal lives into their pages when it is none of their concern.

The only time stories should be printed is if it is genuinely in the public interest and if the person concerned is doing something illegal, fraudulent, dangerous or likely to cause harm to others. Clearly none of these apply in the case of Mr Galbraith and the stories about him published today.

subrosa said...

I think you're sympathising with an MP's life slightly too much Caron. There are thousands of fathers and mothers who are separated from their children on a weekly basis due to the necessity of their work.

Strathclyde was stupid and possibly pompous. The woman has a history of bedding older, wealthy men.

Alan Johnson's case is quite different and is of public interest. We pay for his protection and much more. A wife can be a confidante. Unfortunately children do get caught up in such matters whether it's public figures involved or not.

Thank goodness most parents would consider their children before thinking of playing away but these two didn't. We have to sympathise with their children really and not because their parent's behaviour is all over the tabloids, but because their respective parent doesn't put them first.


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