Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Britain’s Gutter Press and Sex

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 19th June, 2010

The British media’s obsession with politicians’ private lives has always left our continental neighbours scratching their heads in disbelief. Why should the state of someone’s marriage or the relationship that X is conducting with Y be of any legitimate interest to anyone other than those immediately concerned? The claim by newspaper editors who ought to know better is that exposés of politicians’ sex lives ‘is in the public interest’. Rubbish. It is no more in the public interest than would be an exposé of the sex lives of the journalists themselves. Yet once again, courtesy of the People and the News of the World, another Britsh politician, Chris Huhne, (LibDem) Climate Secretary, has had his private life splashed all over tomorrow’s front pages, to the likely distress not only of him, his wife Vicky, his alleged mistress, Carina Trimingham, but also Chris and Vicky’s children. I have known Chris for 30 years, Vicky and the family for about a decade and Carina since she helped out with Brian Paddick’s London mayoral campaign in 2008. These are all human beings, flesh and blood and with emotions, not fictional characters in some TV soap. And as such, their private lives should remain exactly that: private. They will have enough problems dealing with their current situation without the added pressure of media scrutiny and hypocritical criticism. Media exposés of the private lives of politicians are the modern-day equivalent of the Roman ‘sport’ of throwing Christians to the lions and are just as distasteful.

10 Responses to “Britain’s Gutter Press and Sex”

  1. resistor said

    Having deceived the country by joining the Tories, deceiving his wife was a minor crime.

  2. Dougf said

    Well if nothing else these ‘public interest’ stories are at least demonstrating that most Libdems & most Conservatives are pretty much on the same page with regards to public morality.
    We don’t ‘like’ these salacious intrusions into private lives. The reason that the LibDems are now REALLY noticing the nasty aspect of our media is that now they are in the front lines. It’s a price everyone has to pay for any influence. Too big a price I might add.
    Now that said, I really DISLIKE the press,so I don’t care WHO is being intruded upon. Whoever it is has my sympathy. This is a PRIVATE not a PUBLIC story. I hope that Mr.Hulne just decides to KBO (courtesy of Dr.Who) and adopts the ‘publish and be damned’ philosophy. More public figures should stop apologizing for private matters and start defending their right to a PRIVATE life.

  3. Paul said

    If a politician is dishonest in his private life – why should anyone trust him in his public life?

  4. @Paul: May I answer your question with another question: If a journalist is dishonest in his or her private life, why should we trust them to report the truth when they write hard-hitting investigative journalism? (After all, we have to trust that their anonymous sources are not fabrications.)

    In other words, I can see your point but it is a decidedly slippery slope – eventually anyone with any public role would be fair game. Moreover, most people have done something in their private life (got completely plastered and made an exhibition of themselves, cheated on a girl/boyfriend etc. etc.) that would be very embarrassing if printed in the tabloids. That doesn’t necessarily make them bad people, only fallible human beings.

    • Paul said

      Hi Niklas, Most Journalists will report what they percieve to be the truth, hopefully, after checking the credibility of the information received from sources. That they sensationalise the story is just to sell whatever media they intend to publish that story in. I believe that anyone in a public role asking for our trust, by means of a vote to put them in a position of power to affect our lives as opposed to entertaining us such as celebrities, must have the moral upper hand. There are enough honourable people in the world – the problem is that they would probably not seek the power that is wanted by the dishonourable ones. Yes, we all have our faults – but most people don’t claim to be something their not.

  5. Agree with the thrust of your post, Jonathan.

    But you may just possibly have gone a tad OTT with this:

    “modern-day equivalent of the Roman ‘sport’ of throwing Christians to the lions and are just as distasteful.”

    So killing people is just as distasteful as people apearing in print? Really?

  6. jonathanfryer said

    The point I was making, Paul, is that turning the upheavals in someone’s private life into a spectator sport is as distasteful as some of the spectacles put oin by the Romans. Certainly, it does not (usually) involve death, but the pain and suffering can be immense and long-lasting.

  7. wg said

    I would refer you to a remark I left on the Witterings from Whitney blog.

    “I would rather that the press flagged up Huhne’s hypocrisy in fighting the extradition of a British UFO freak to America whilst being quite willing to hand over the rest of us to anyone of his EU buddies under the European Arrest Warrant.

    That would be far too much research for the pencil-licking press, I guess.”

  8. brilliantly put

  9. John Oakes said

    Wg seems to be confusing Huhne’s arguing of the rights and wrongs of a particular case -the UFO freak -with his support In principle for mutual Euro-extradition; which must surely be a good thing, given of course that mutually-agreed standards of proof, fair trial etc are assured.

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