This is one of those subjects you prefer to let lie. I walked away from it three days running, each time trying to find a way of making it palatable. In the end I just feel sad.
What caused hesitation is whether it is nobler to follow the fashionable view that a man’s sex life is his private life, or to express regret character is traduced and wives betrayed when we allow our basest instincts to lead. As one blogger opined, “I don’t care who a man screws so long as it’s not kids or animals.” Well, yes, but problems begin there’s a person in the public glare involved, one trusted as responsible and honest.
Sleaze, the perennial crowd pleaser
For those just back from a month marooned in the Antarctic with only penguins for company, I am discussing two SNP MPs at Westminster who shared the same girlfriend, not simultaneously, but in separate sequential affairs, both men married.
The MPs in question were not wealthy enough to gain an injunction over publication of their ‘love triangle’, as the gleeful tabloids erroneously describe it. They are not a certain mega-rich celebrity with a UK Supreme court verdict upholding a high court judgement though everybody knows whose involved. What secret is there to protect?
Lord Toulson, the one out-of-step judge in the celeb’s case, made obvious the obvious: “I have reached a clear view that the story’s confidentiality has become so porous that the idea of it still remaining secret in a meaningful sense is illusory.”
Toulson was referring to wall-to-wall publicity and intrusion. Incidentally, the injunction only applies in England and Wales. The name of the celebrity was published by a Scottish newspaper itself protected by Scots Law, under our rules of freedom of speech.
Those without sin throw the first stone
The MP’s names are easy to find in most sleazy tabloids, and also the prurient broadsheets which pretend to abide by higher moral standards.
However, readers won’t find the MP’s names here, nor that of the woman they bedded, or who bedded them. (Please, no clichés about it taking two to tango.) What I want to discuss is the normal societal reaction to public misdemeanours in people we respect, and expect, rightly or wrongly, a better standard of behaviour.
Two abiding aspects straddle the debate: most men undergo a middle-age crisis of some kind – television shows such a Top Gear are made to help them recuperate – and some women are as predatory as any man. When the two meet expect serious marital trouble.
A novelist friend once remarked that he was annoyed with wives who dump their long-term husbands over a single encounter. “When you love your wife above all else, and it’s a one night stand, a moment of weakness, what’s wrong with forgiveness?” He has a point.
As a writer I’m familiar with the problems of loneliness, it’s an occupational hazard. Politicians are away from home for long periods. The word is absence. But that doesn’t mean a loved one isn’t there. By ‘there’ I mean in their thoughts every moment.
It’s the other word, abstinence that makes the heart grow fonder.
You can stray into trouble by looking for sexual companionship. If you trawl the internet, or inhabit pubs and bars you’ll soon find female company. Infidelity is one thing, multiple encounters another. There are men who know they have a sexual addiction; they know it can destroy their marriage and their careers, yet they persist. Living ‘on the edge’ raises the adrenalin level; they have to top each new experience with another.
Seduced or the seducer?
I’ve no idea if either MP had previous affairs, or if their marriages were already disintegrating. Nor do I know if their marriage was an open one – “Take any person to bed I just don’t want to know about it, dear.”
Jean-Paul Sartre and his muse Simone de Beauvoir turned their open marriage into a philosophy. They agreed never to lie to each other as other married couples did. They coined the over-used dictum, ‘transparency.’ The flaw in their doctrine was they took no consideration of the husband of the woman, or the wife of the man with whom they slept.
And the way some movie stars play the field you wonder if their wives are brainless or waiting for the right moment to claim most of the estate. What I do know in this case is, the woman is the proactive one. And she’s a journalist. The warning bell is clanging.
It does not appear to be a jilted lover falling on the affections of his friend for consolation. She’s quoted as saying, “I can’t keep my knickers on.” If she’s as sexually brazen as she appears in her press interviews, keeping her knickers on is no guard against th compulsion for self-gratification.
Maybe the press composed her answers for her, interpreted her remarks, a tabloid trick to spice up a story. “How about we put it this way, love? You were minding your own business at the Conservative Ball when the politician approached you, drunk, and asked if you were wearing any knickers?”
If she is as openly garrulous as published some women might call her sexually liberated. Trouble is, she chose two married men to express her liberation. On the other hand, a man can always say ‘no’, or if very polite, no thanks. I tried that once and got a lecture in female sexual politics. Assuming the woman would take the rejection with grace she responded thoroughly annoyed, “Those are your rules. Don’t expect me to play by them.”
Later, and in the same sleazy vicinity of Hollywood hopefuls, I was introduced to a classic blonde bombshell as a lowly script editor, (which I am to a degree). She shook my hand and, without me saying anything other than hello, gave me a disparaging look uttering the immortal line, “I only sleep with famous men.” There’s ambition for you.
She went on to woo the film’s producer, an easy challenge since he is always willing, a man who has serial girlfriends that overlap causing him spasms of pain sorting out the transfer of affection. He pays huge alimony to his ex-wife. Incidentally, bedtime for the women who choose him may be a letdown. He is a raddled alcoholic. But the one in question got the job she was really after.
A Scot desperately keen on regaining his country’s independence, I see public reaction to the Twin Peaks Affair as understandable. The MPs bring disgrace on themselves, and ridicule on their party. They deflect attention from their good work, temporarily divide their energy and drive, ruin their marriage, embarrass their children, and give the enemies of Scotland’s democracy ammunition to shout, “Look, they’re all the same. Stuff your idealism. This is the real world.”
The culture of futility
We give newspaper owners and journalists material to feed their culture of futility.
So long as they get ammunition to tell us we are all the same, and no matter how hard we strive the result will always be the same, futility and cynicism win. That’s when we sigh and say, what’s the point? Safer to stay well-behaved, docile citizens.
I am trying to avoid any moral judgment, but my initial reaction is despair.
Illicit sex forces a person to lead a double life. When a person divides his body and mind his drive is not on the appointed, elected task of serving voters, it’s on covering up his aberrant behaviour; giving a false impression of normality.
Self-gratification, excitement is the allure. A double life leads the public to question integrity. Is what this politician telling me the truth or lies? What is he hiding? Can we trust him? Is he a weak character?
James Bond is fictitious
Did we not hope for higher standards in everything? I wrote an essay warning of Westminster as a sewer. Yes, it can happen in any parliament, and it happens in the prime minister’s office, just ask former prime minister John Major and his tryst Edwina Curry, she spread “across his office desk”, ink well, pens presumably removed before sexual congress began.
Spooks on the loose
My second reaction was to wonder if it was a conspiracy. First rule of defaming a public figure, send in a hooker, or two. People of passion and fire will always be attacked by the forces of the status quo. They have to be silenced.
The first attack made on Martin Luther King by the J. Edgar Hoover (a cross dresser) and his FBI goons was to spread rumours of King having numerous affairs. Hoover didn’t need evidence. (He also kept the skinny on every president, the reason they kept him in his job.) The FBI had us see King in a different light when we watched him preach loyalty and liberty and justice. They placed the seed of doubt in the back of our minds.
The FBI wanted the stature of King taken down and they knew the easy way to do it.
MPs get blackmailed
A common tactic is to send in a woman or the gay man to entrap a troublesome politician. History is littered with case studies. Want to know what the secretary of defence is up to, send in a femme fatale, we know he has a weakness for pretty women, or young men.
Send him the photographs and warn that if he doesn’t mute his preoccupation with justice he won’t get the negatives. That was the old school way. Today you call a newspaper, or post the photographs on the web.
Idealism versus despair
Scotland is striving for a fresh approach to politics, not the old crapology doubled. We want the SNP to be harbingers of a new candour and maturity.
There is nothing wrong with idealism. It’s a much derided quality. Hope and idealism are one and the same. To place trust in appointed champions and see it squandered is not pleasant. We want idealism to triumph over materialism.
We don’t want delays or diversions. Sexual adventures won’t stop a movement for greater democracy – African Americans did not give up their fight for equality and civil rights on reading Hoover’s falsehoods – but scurrilous accusation temporarily tarnishes politicians.
Why worry over an MP’s dalliances?
Debate on social sites veers from the acutely embarrassing to the attitude it’s a non-event. It isn’t a non-event for the wives, or the children who will get taunted at school. And there’s a hidden issue; colleagues who know of the affair, what do they do? Do they collaborate, avoid, stay silent, or tell the wives? They too are compromised.
When an opposition MP was caught with a man in a park in flagrante dilecto the SNP said it was a matter for him not for them. That’s the way it should be. But it doesn’t stop the press having a field day. They will milk embarrassment for all its worth.
The enemies of democracy get to set the agenda for discussion. The next step they indulge is to ask what expenses the MP’s used to buy their evenings in hotels and restaurants? And so it goes on, and on, until no one can believe anybody.
They encourage gossip and innuendo, and even more deranged trolls than normal to stalk the internet looking for ‘separatist’ victims.
Spending more time with the family
At least the SNP MPs didn’t lie about their affair when challenged. Usually we are subjected to the miserable wife standing next to a contrite, tearful, politician telling us and the assembled media he lost his way, he will resign to spend more time with his family. In this case we are spared hypocrisy.
One MP dismisses the association as a passing tryst, the other says the affair is deadly serious. Either way it’s a mess. I have tried not to step in it. But the farrago effectively mutes two of the strongest voices for Scotland’s interests and aspirations – for a time.
A female confidante tells me she won’t hear any excuse for idiocy: “Most men can’t keep their trousers zipped.” There’s no answer to that. Lenny Bruce said, “Men are carnal. They’ll stup anything with a hole.” Well, some of us.
When sex was only straight or gay
In a screenplay involving a screwed-up private detective, I have him confide in a priest for some insight into his guilty longings for the widow of his murdered brother, a woman he swore to protect.
The priest sighs and says, “There’s a worm that lives in the sea, an invertebrate. When it comes time to breed it divides into two. No frenzy, no competition, no pain. If only human sex was that simple.”
Two tiny muscles at the back of the genitals, that’s the source of the problem. Whole wars are started because of their existence.