Wednesday, September 01, 2010

In support of William and Ffion Hague - politicians have a right to a private life

I know I'm a big softie, but when I read William Hague's unprecedented personal statement, I actually had a tear in my eye. It must have been really difficult for both him and Ffion to be so frank about their personal situation.

I certainly don't have much time for him politically - he took the Tory Party into a very bad place on issues like immigration and fought a very nasty campaign in 2001. It's worth remembering that Charles Kennedy had the good sense not to pander to the Daily Fail lobby, hold his ground and kept to a liberal message. We defied expectations and held onto the huge number of seats in the south of England that we'd won in 1997.

Since his stint as Tory Leader, we've seen a much softer, more charming, funny side to him.  However, his voting record on equality issues, particularly gay rights, is, like that of many Tories, pretty abysmal. Personally, though, he comes across as very genuine and affable.

Today, after a couple of days of internet  innuendo, with the eye of the storm at Guido Fawkes' blog (which I'm not linking to cos I don't want to give him the Wikio love), William Hague issued a personal statement in which he cast some light on the allegations. Yes, he had shared a hotel room with the guy who until today was his special adviser, no, there was nothing untoward about it, and, actually, his marriage is fine, despite the strain put upon it by years of disappointment in their attempts to have children. He outlined that they had suffered several miscarriages, including one quite recently.

I've seen a fair bit of comment on this online, but none so perceptive and understanding as that written by Sara Bedford. She eloquently describes what you go through and why she feels for the Hagues.

It is bad enough finding that you cannot conceive a much longed for child, or that you lose such a child before you have told most people that you are expecting.  When it happens time after time, you do not know where you find the strength to go on with life, but you do. Having unsuccessful fertility treatment is in many ways even worse – the high of seeing all those beautiful embryos, then finding out that your body is not good enough to look after them.
 Only those who have been there repeatedly know just what it feels like. The endless well-meaning comments, asking when you are going to start a family, with the warning not to leave it ‘too late’. And if you are lucky enough to have one child, the remarks about not allowing her to be an only child soon follow, with dire warning about what will happen to her if you fail to provide her with a sibling.
The pressure of living a life not being able to tell people why you are not taking part in a particular activity, or why you are feeling unwell or look a little pale, is immense. Just as I don’t think those who have had the family they desire without too many problems can understand the very real pain of infertility, so I cannot imagine what it must be like to go through all of this with uninformed sniping about your relationship and sexuality.
This case  is an example of how real pain can be caused by unfounded speculation and innuendo. Not just the undoubted stress that William and Ffion's decision to reveal things they would undoubtedly have rathered remained private. You have to remember that a young activist, who has done nothing wrong, now has to work out how he's going to pay his rent this month.

I am worried, though, about what this whole sequence of events means for politicians' private life, and in particular this part of William Hague's statement:

This speculation seems to stem from the fact that whilst campaigning before the election we occasionally shared twin hotel rooms. Neither of us would have done so if we had thought that it in any way meant or implied something else.
In hindsight I should have given greater consideration to what might have been made of that, but this is in itself no justification for allegations of this kind, which are untrue and deeply distressing to me, to Ffion and to Christopher.
He has now told me that, as a result of the pressure on his family from the untrue and malicious allegations made about him, he does not wish to continue in his position. It is a pity that a talented individual should feel that he needs to leave his job in this way.

I am worried that we're going to get to the stage where politicians are scared to ever be alone with anyone for fear of innuendo being made of it. That would be utterly wrong - we need our politicians to be real human beings, capable of proper human interaction, not sterile, remote, aloof Stepford children who are scared to do anything in case it offends someone.

You can tell that Guido has never done a day's decent activism in his life. As a veteran of many election campaigns, I know that on the rare occasions you get to see a bed during the run up to an election, the only thing you want to do is sleep in it. I found it quite weird that Josh and Donna, and indeed many of the other Santos campaign operatives, found time to do otherwise at the culmination of an almost year long slog on the stump in the West Wing.

And as for Iain Dale, I do wish he wouldn't condemn the entire political blogosphere because of the actions of one prat. Especially when he devotes such huge amounts of time and energy into organising his blog awards. I mean, you don't decry the editor of the Guardian because of yet another outrage by the Sun. You don't say it's a bad day for books because Jackie Collins publishes a new novel. The existence of Green and Black's dark chocolate isn't demeaned by the appalling, bland Hershey's Kisses.

The way our politicians should be judged is on what they do in office. Tony Blair, for example, was exemplary in his private life which must have annoyed the tabloids no end, but he did some terrible, terrible things. He restricted our civil liberties, played merry hell with habeas corpus and set in course a train of events which led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. And he's so bloody arrogant, he'd do it all again.

I like the frankness so far exhibited by this Government, especially in foreign affairs, with David Cameron describing Gaza as a prison camp and Nick Clegg decrying the lack of international aid to Pakistan. It's inconceivable that these things would have been said without the say so of the Foreign Secretary.

On the other hand, the failure to sign up to the latest European Directive on Human Trafficking is a big fail as Stephen has pointed out. This needs sorting and fast.

It's public deeds, not private lives that should define our politicians.

1 comment:

Voter said...

I have read the post by Iain Dale you linked. He said "I am afraid that all of us who blog have been sullied by this experience" which is to talk about bloggers being perceived by others as less in the light of the incident.

His fear was that one blog would bring down all.

I agree with you that we as humans are capable of distinguishing between blogs.

I fervently hope that Mr Dale's fear is misplaced and the sphere does not become devalued.

If, on some issues, blogs move together, maybe they can be a political force.

I hope you continue to mention the Directive in your blog


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