Chancellor George Osborne’s reputation has taken a beating this week after a former dominatrix came out of the woodwork to repeat allegations about his part in a cocaine and prostitute scandal back in the 1990s – claims he has vehemently denied.
But with commentators, reporters and members of the public working themselves up into a lather about Gorgeous George’s allegedly steamy past, I take a different view of ‘Louise-gate’.
I am tired of great political minds falling from grace over a scenario played out in their past. Of course we should not let genuinely corrupt or fraudulent characters escape punishment – but dragging up ill-advised decisions made in politicians’ younger lives amounts to the character assassination of our MPs.
We may not agree with what they did, but who can honestly claim that they are free from scandal, and have no skeletons in their wardrobes? Everyone makes mistakes, especially when young – that is part of maturing and becoming more worldly. I am sure that if anyone dug deep enough, I too would suffer some embarrassment for a poor decision made in the distant past. But in journalism, bad behaviour in the personal lives of members of the press is not reported.
Louise Mensch recently caused a flurry of negativity after she seemingly admitted taking drugs as a twentysomething. Of course drug taking should be abhorred – it is illegal after all. But it is extremely sad that a simple, idiotic decision in a person’s past can come back to haunt them many years later, and potentially put them out of a job. David Cameron and Boris Johnson have long been tainted by their association with the boorish Bullingdon club; but a great many young people engage in drunken behaviour every weekend without repercussions in their professional lives.
Our focus on a former cocaine-taking madam has meant our attention has been turned away from the likes of Lord Hanningfield – a far riper target for public scrutiny and condemnation. The peer, who is free after serving just a quarter of his jail term after falsely claiming for £14,000, has emerged quietly and avoided much attention. His crime, like the other expenses fraudsters, is far more relevant to whether he’s fit to govern because it was committed while he was in Parliament.
It is time we judged MPs on their actions in the present, not the past. Why do we find it so hard to let people forget mistakes they have made? It is time to forgive – after all, politicians are human too.