Back in 1993 John Major announced the “Back-to-Basics” strategy in order to regain control of the political agenda. And then – to quote Don Rumsfeld – stuff happened which proved that British Conservative politicians did indeed focus on man’s basic needs.
(Money and sex, in case you wonder)
One tragic part of the back-to-basics mess was the accidental death of MP Stephen Milligan in early 1994 during what I think is technically called “extreme fetishistic auto-erotic sex”. Following this, a number of Conservative MPs came out of respective closets in less lethal ways.
Anyway, I was scrolling innocently through my very serious politics reading list in Google Reader and hit upon this post at the otherwise very serious Matthew Yglesias about “the latest weird conservative sex scandal”.
Unlike Yglesias, I wouldn’t call the strange and awful circumstances surrounding Rev. Gary M. Aldridge’s death a scandal – embarrassing for a conservative congregation, yes, and tragic for his wife and children – but there is something very odd about people who preach needlessly (in my opinion, but I’m a very left-wing liberal on social issues) strict rules for behaviour to the public while breaching everyone of them in private.
Which of cause brings us to the truly bizarre case of US senator Larry Craig.
In general, I’m not that big a fan of Christopher Hitchens but in a recent Slate article, he did offer a plausible explanation for this kind of behaviour, quoting Tom Driberg a gay British politician:
The thrills were twofold. First came the exhilaration of danger: the permanent risk of being caught and exposed. Second was the sense of superiority that a double life could give.
Now, there is no doubt that centrists and leftists are up to all kinds of shenanigans in and outside their bedrooms but the absence of public moralizing makes them relatively less scandal-prone and, at least in my eyes, less unsympathetic. Perhaps the reason is that I am not confronted with an implicit demonstration of social superiority.
How about political scandals involving sex in Denmark and Sweden? There has actually been some during recent years in Denmark, but unlike the Milligan, Clinton and Aldridge stories we are talking about behaviour which would be criminal in most countries (underage sex, breach of privacy, sexual harassment – the Liberals seem especially prone to these kinds of problems) and they have been treated as criminal, not political cases. And if I have understood things correctly, Copenhagen’s Mayor for Technical and Environmental Affairs has a thorough knowledge of the city’s parks.
Drinking, on the other hand, is a political liability.