|You are in: Talking Point|
Friday, 16 November, 2001, 17:15 GMT
The private life of politicians: do we expect too much?
Jack McConnell has emerged as the only candidate for the position of Scottish Labour leader and first minister.
Mr McConnell is aiming to take over from Henry McLeish who sensationally resigned last week over his expenses.
Now Mr McConnell has sought to "clear the air" over an affair he had seven years ago. He said the disclosure was aimed at putting the record straight and stopping any intrusion into his personal life.
Has politics become too personal and do past indiscretions really matter? Or should politicians expect intense media scrutiny of their affairs, business or otherwise? Do we have unrealistic expectations of our politicians?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Simon Icke, UK
If the media aren't careful, we will end up with politicians who are mind-numbing dull and lack any sort of personality. To be a good politician you must be able to draw on and adapt your experiences in life and how can you do that if you've never lived?
It is a sorry old state when the Scottish Parliament in its infancy has so few competent politicians to fill the post of First Minister. McConnell looks and acts like a club doorman with the sophistication of a council bureaucrat. Can he really be the First Minister of a UK parliament? Labour need to get their act together and fast - this is not acceptable.
Do we really want people with no faults who've never had any problems, running the country? I'd rather have real people who've dealt with real life. Jack McConnell wasn't right to have an affair but the only person with the right to judge him is his wife. If we continue this absurd witch hunt we will end up with useless politicians living in ivory towers, afraid to do anything even slightly risky.
Andy W, UK
The trouble is that a lot of the time politicians feel that they have the right to lecture the general public on their morals and way of life, from the right wing moralising about whether people should live together and have children without being married to the left moralising about drinking, smoking and all the -isms. So, to be honest, they are fair game. However, an affair should not disqualify them from public office so long as they accept that, if they are caught, they should be prepared to put up with a certain amount of mickey taking.
If a politician espouses "family values" whilst in private carrying on an affair their hypocrisy should certainly be made public.
Mr McConnell's private life is irrelevant. What is of more concern to me is that he is the only candidate to replace Henry McLeish. Hardly democratic is it?
Take your pick for leader. A man who drank a quart of whiskey every night, a man who had affairs or a man who worked hard and rarely drank. The first was Churchill, the second Eisenhower and the third Hitler.
Politicians are just human like the rest of us (believe it or not). If Jack McConnell proves to be a competent First Minister then no one will care about these recent revelations.
We should be scrutinising the media in this case - their intrusive and salacious coverage will hurt the individuals involved in this 'private' matter, and will not hurt a teflon-coated political career.
By the way - Reverend Paul Boorman, how do you define morals in this day and age? Have you NEVER sinned?! What about a bit of forgiveness?
Reverend Paul Boorman, Scotland
I don't want to hear about "The Private Life of Politicians" - unless, perhaps, it's a David Attenborough documentary.
If you crave the details of others' private lives, then your own isn't interesting enough. We should be more concerned with how our ministers do their jobs than about the human details of their existence. Of course, integrity is important, but even this isn't a whitewash trait - the most committed politician could be the most faithless spouse. Everyone has facets to their personality.
I believe we should expect the highest standards from our leading politicians. We have too many anti-heroes in the modern world and we need people to hold up and show as examples of integrity, honesty and high moral standards. We should expect our top politicians to fulfil this role. Their failure to do so is one of the reasons that the Country has become turned off by politics.
Their personal life has no influence on whether or not they are good at their job. Imagine if every job were partially judged on these merits. Who does not have a skeleton in their closet? No one would be allowed to work!!
R Horsburgh, Edinburgh
Politicians don't have a private life. They gave it up when they decided to be accountable to the people. However this does not mean the 'details' should become common knowledge and the media should refrain from 'digging the dirt'. On the subject of electing the leader of the ruling labour party, it seems Scotland is a bit low on suitable candidates. Could Scotland be about to join the list of countries that were actually better off before they went independent.
We expect too much and never forgive our elected officials.
If a doctor makes a mistake, he gets a reprimand, if a politician makes a mistake then media/opposition/affected people & NGOs crucify him. Is a doctor who cheats on his wife at every opportunity unfit to treat me, of course not. People need to realise that every time a politician's private life is raked through the media we damage our political system, a system that relies on 'representative' democracy. Is it any wonder that people are put off real politics, MOST people don't vote, and how many of us would be willing to become a politician knowing the grief they get?
This type of politician has caused deep cynicism in the whole electorate and have relinquished lost any right to claim the title of "Honourable members of the house". Tony Blair's failure to recognise this and his repeated backing for ministers who bring their positions into disrepute shows that his administration is morally no different from the previous ones.
In some respects we do expect more than is reasonable from our politicians - they have their responsibilities, which (as far as we know) for the vast majority of them, they achieve. It is very much like idolising film stars or musicians to put inflated standards onto politicians - they are all human after all and have failings the same as the rest of us. It does strike me as a bit of a put-up job however to just accept the one nomination as gospel - although when one of the alternatives is to call a general election, is anyone surprised? That would really come across as an admission of defeat....
Simon Moore, UK
I fail to see why we should prefer a straight-laced political incompetent to a top class politician who might have had a few stray encounters from time to time. Surely we've gotten beyond expecting politicians to be priests and I'm not convinced that it's any of our business anyway. For once I wish we had Europe-wide elections so that the French could ridicule our stupid ways. Notice, however, that I have not yet examined whether Mr McConnell is in fact a competent politician.
To a certain degree, you'd like to think that someone's personal life was just that - personal, and of no business of anyone's except those directly involved. Having said that why should I trust promises made to me by someone I don't know when he has admitted that he was unable to keep promises made to someone he loves? Most aspects of our politicians' lives should stay out of the public eye, but anything that calls into question their honesty, integrity, decency or honour affects us all and should be one of the things we are able to consider when going to the ballot box.
Officegate has shown that Scottish politicians are nothing but a bunch of chancers. They promote their own self-interest at the public's expense. Take a good look at the farce that is the Scottish leadership race. With only one contender we are looking at a party that has decided it is a much better idea to divvy-up the jobs than have an open debate on ideas and policies. I have no sympathy for our politicians, they deserve all the mud that's thrown at them.
Neil Anderson, Scotland
Other Talking Points:
Links to more Talking Point stories
|^^ Back to top
News Front Page | World | UK | UK Politics | Business | Sci/Tech | Health | Education | Entertainment | Talking Point | In Depth | AudioVideo
To BBC Sport>> | To BBC Weather>>
© MMIII | News Sources | Privacy