“Minister caught in flagrante” is such a well-known meme that few failed to recognise the truth in the Little Britain sketches featuring Norman Fry MP at the gates of his mansion, standing awkwardly with his rictus smiling family, reading a prepared statement for the press, “… at that moment I slipped on a glacé cherry and ended up inside one of the men… As far as I am concerned that is an end to the matter.”
In fact this cliché has become so notorious, no MP would dare to repeat it for fear of lampooning the sketches.
Now the apology, the statement about mistaken infidelity and asking for privacy while your wife stands by you, as if your sad explanation really held water, is long gone. A statement of regret no longer follows the political peccadillo. The fear of an outcry about loose morals, or dodgy ethics is from a bygone age. After the Referendum and in the reality of Trump, politicians, well Right-Wingers at least, have woken up. They’ve realised that that silent “moral majority” which they once feared could oust them at any moment, is just a fantasy. Were Profumo around today, he wouldn’t be resigning in shame, there’d be campaign posters with Mandy and Christine claiming “Profumo’s sticking (it) up for England”
The silent swathe of voters who will judge you on ethical standards are no longer a majority. Mary Whitehouse is dead and we see the real political price of austerity. Morals are expensive. Honourable conduct, paying your fair share, paying taxes, owning up to, or recompensing for, your errors, resisting cheating the system; it’s a luxury few can afford and our political representatives reflect this. The majority now are chancers and Del-boys, the self-interested, the poorly educated and the gullible crying out to be fed fantasies like “Sovereignty” or the reason you can’t get jobs is not because (judging by the state of protestors who roll out to support Brexit) you’re beer-swilling fast-food fat leery idiots, but because foreigners are stealing them.
The newspaper that capitalised most out of moral outrage, The News of The World, fell victim to the last one. It had become an anachronism; in a world that’s lost its moral compass, the weekly diet of vicars caught in bed with choirboys was no longer a sustainable product.
If you get caught doing something stupid, immoral or corrupt: lie, deny, fail to reply.
Which explains why the Johnson Technique is so effective. If you get caught doing something stupid, immoral or corrupt: lie, deny, fail to reply. When that no longer works: never explain clearly, never really apologise, try to make a bad pun about it or say something in Latin then, most importantly, double down on it; which makes it all look intentional.
So when Mostyn-Owen left Johnson because he allegedly cheated on her with Wheeler, he just raised the stakes and married Wheeler instead. And when she failed to respond to him allegedly cheating with Wyatt, he nakedly kept poking the bare: Fazackerley allegedly, then Macintyre allegedly, then Arcuri allegedly and it was only when Symonds fell for the mop-haired harmer that Wheeler finally spun out.
There’s never an apology, no breast beating about a slip of judgement, a stain on virtue. It’s all Piaf and Non, je ne regrette rien.
You don’t apologise for infidelity, you make it more interesting, you up the stakes. Caught with one? Grab two. English Rose getting a bit thorny? Use tax-payers’ money to bed an American pole dancer. Hancock with Coladangelo or Gove with, perhaps, his redacted superinjunction are just following Johnson’s lead.
We seem to have lost the critical ability to correlate a man who blithely cheats on his wife with one who is not going to think twice about doing it to the electorate.
Two questions never fail to emerge when these political groper-dopes are revealed. Why can these men not keep it in their pants? And, why do smart, intelligent, attractive individuals fall for these monsters of ego?
The clichéd answer to the first question is that with great power comes great libido. All that authority goes to the head, upper and lower.
“Because power is such an aphrodisiac,” wrote Sarah Vine, never afraid of a cliché, in the Daily Mail, “it doesn’t take a huge leap of imagination to see how you can go from being happily married to the kind of person who gets caught so unfortunately on CCTV.” A few days later, following a tiny hop of imagination, she announced her separation from the reptilian, thrusting, power broker Michael Gove. Now the world awaits in trepidation of that CCTV footage emerging. Hoping it isn’t straight after breakfast.
There is a reason why most politicians have the sort of looks that ring bells in Notre Dame. Politics is the only popularity contest on earth in which ugly people can succeed. So those show-offs hungry for stardom or mass validation, without the looks to consider careers as pop stars or actors, teem into politics.
If you’ve gone through life looking like Matt Hancock you’d be flattered by the sexual attention of almost anybody with a motor response. Nobody is wondering why he might be attracted to fit, tanned, beauty Gina Coladangelo. But who can look at the Clark Kentesque millionaire Oliver Bonas founder Oliver Tress and not wonder why she would prefer being licked by that folicly challenged panting Labrador.
Victorian novels were full of handsome wealthy cads exploiting naïve poor, but clearly hot, young women. But women like Symonds and Coladangelo don’t need the cash, and clearly aren’t doing it for the looks. Could it be the sheer naked ambition and drive of these intense rats that draws them to them? Are they the ultimate bad boys?
If we no longer have the urge for moral rectitude to keep our opportunistic power-crazed political representatives on the straight and narrow. What will? It was never going to be Hancock’s infidelity, or moral looseness, that did for him. It wasn’t even the catalogue of errors that saw hundreds of thousands die or the apparent corruption that saw his mates (and Gina’s brother) profit from often untendered supply contracts. It was breaking the distancing rules that he himself created and an electorate resenting it; wishing that they had had the balls to ignore the rules. It was like Al Capone being caught for Tax Evasion.
Even if we just want to dismiss snogging the tax-funded aide as a bit of saucy fun, we need to remember: these things don’t come out of nowhere. There are always serious behind the scenes negotiations before they do. Balls are firmly gripped. The question we all should be asking whenever these scandals break is: what did he do to try and keep this quiet? What was leveraged? What terrible things has this person already done in order to stop this shame?