Sunday, October 21, 2007


Led by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, politicians talk about restoring public trust in them.
What they mean is they want us to respect them and believe what they say.
But how can we when they hold us in such contempt they tell us stories even a very young child who believes in Santa Claus would not think could possibly be true?
Brown (MP for Dunfermline East) expected us to believe that even if the polls had showed he would win an autumn election he would still have called it off.
Hoist with his own petard over the election debacle, he ran for cover with a grubby behind-closed-doors recorded interview with Downing Street’s favourite hack, the venerable Andrew Marr, former political editor of the BBC who virtually turned Government spokesman when told other journalists about the interview afterwards.
It was another two days before Brown had the guts to meet the Press and tried to make the outcome of his dithering sound like the act of a statesman with a great vision for Britain.
Even Tony Blair couldn’t have dreamed up such appalling spin, which came from the man who said he would end all spin.
If, instead, Brown, who has written a book about courage, had himself had the courage to come out on to the steps of Downing Street that Saturday afternoon and tell the assembled media: ‘Damn the polls. I’ve waited ten years to get this job and I’m not going to risk losing it after only three months. So game over,’ he could have won the respect he craves and to which he feels entitled. Such a refreshing burst of honesty could even have sent Labour soaring in the polls.
But Brown had barely finished insulting our intelligence, got the mauling he deserved from Conservative Leader David Cameron and been booed off the stage when his nearby constituency neighbour, Sir Menzies Campbell (Ming, MP North East Fife) limped on with the sad story of his resignation as Leader of the Liberal Democrats.
Yes, it was true he had resigned. But that was only half the story. What he did not admit that he was about to be fired - probably within twenty-four hours.
In interviews the next day, Sir Ming (66), who had made a big song and dance about the virtues of his age at the Lib Dem conference only weeks previously, whined about the media going on about his age.
The fact is age had little if anything to do with him losing his job.
Men of his age and older have held top jobs in politics. Ronald Reagan was well into his seventies when his term as American President ended. So was Donald Rumsfeld, former US Defence Secretary. At 71, aspiring Republican Presidential candidate John McCain is five years older than Sir Ming.
Though his feeble, lack lustre performances in the House of Commons and his Party’s steady decline in the polls didn’t help, what really did for Sir Ming was that his tribe has become extinct.
The days when Scottish grandees reigned over rather represented their constituencies are long over and gone.
Most of them were seen off years ago when the Conservatives lost all their Scottish seats in Westminster. But as a Lib Dem, Sir Ming has managed to cling on as the sole survivor of this proud, ancient breed.
His insistence that it was his decision to resign (before he was sacked), was typical of the bygone values of his lost tribe.
There is no shame in getting fired these days. It’s just part of working life, and most people eventually move on to another job, sometimes even a better one. But Sir Ming would have found it shameful to be fired.
If he had had the grace to say: ‘I’ve done my best for the Party I believe in, but they no longer want me to lead it. So I am resigning before they kick me out,’ he too would have gained respect and even some sympathy. People might even have thought that the Lib Dems were the honest Party, which might possibly have given them a lift in the polls.
If politicians want us to respect them and believe what they say they need to stop treating us like punters and earn our respect by coming clean and telling it how it is - not insult our intelligence and try to fob us off with spin and half truths.
If they simply cannot help spinning, they should at least have the courtesy to tell plausible stories which some people might even believe.
The most telling moment at the monarchical style installation of Nicolas Sarkozy as President of France was the besotted, needy yet uncertain look he gave his wife, Cecilia, his eyes desperately asking: will you stay with me? At that instant it almost seemed as if his achievement of highest office would be hollow without her at his side.
Her response was a gaze which simply said: I am here. I am trying. We will have to see.
It seems likely now that despite their best efforts to rebuild their 11-year marriage, both already knew it was too late.
Though she had fallen passionately in love with multi-millionaire American-Moroccan ad man Richard Attias, last year Cecilia Sarkozy left him and returned from New York to Paris to try to rebuild her marriage.
In his book Testimony Mr Sarkozy wrote: ‘Today, Cecilia and I are reunited for good, for real, doubtless for ever...We are not able and do not know how to separate from each other...’
But this week, following the announcement of her divorce, his new ex wife said: ‘I tried everything but we found it impossible to live together any more… What is happening to me happens to millions of people. One day you no longer feel at home in the couple…It doesn’t work any more…’
Perhaps the most poignant aspect for Mr Sarkozy is that as he won the crowning, glittering prize he had coveted all his political life he finally lost the woman he had coveted since the day in 1984 when he, then the married mayor of the chic Paris suburb of Neuilly, performed the ceremony as she wed her first husband. Copyright © Rebecca Hamilton 2007. All Rights Reserved