One Rant at a Time

Whatever heaves into view........better keep its head down.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

You're sacked for being human

I don't suppose there are many sentient people around here who don't know that Charles Kennedy's position as leader of the Liberal Democrats has come under threat, due, apparently, to his admission that he's been struggling with an alcohol problem for some time. Or at least, that seems to be the main pretext for the unpleasantness. I'm fairly sure there's a lot of underhanded manoeuvering going on, but that's not what I'm interested in here.

To me, this whole episode calls into question the issue of standards in public life. Let's start with the assumption that nobody is perfect; we're all damaged goods in one way or another. Posh is too thin, Becks is too dim, Blair is too wishy-washy and the Queen is just a tad stuffy. And Charles Kennedy drinks too much.

But since when did these sort of issues prevent anyone from doing a job? We've had drinkers in politics since time immemorial - Churchill wasn't teetotal at the best of times. Other leaders have been philanderers, drug addicts, psychopaths and megalomaniacs. I've met captains of industry who smelt like a mint explosion in a distillery - nobody was under any illusion that they drank yet equally, nobody seemed to think they were incapable of doing a bang-up job.

So what is it about the here and now that says it's a good idea to hound people from whatever office they hold because they're human? When we hold people up as leaders or role-models, what we're really saying is "we admire you for your ability to do something particularly well," and we're disappointed that that person turns out not to do other things equally as well. Charles Kennedy has managed to bring the Liberal Democrats out of their third-party backwater and has helped turn them into a reasonably viable political force. And many people admire him for that. His drinking is incidental, and yet that is what is going to bring him down.

Do we blame the media for creating stories where there are none? I mean, where's the real interest in "Man Drinks Too Much Shocker". Why do we hold a particular human being to higher standards than we do ourselves? And particularly in politics, where our representatives come from amongst ourselves? People who get involved in public life do so not because they think they're better than the rest of us, but because they have a desire to make a contribution. They don't sign up to some higher code of conduct than the average person in the street.

I'm not naive enough to believe that Kennedy's in trouble precisely because he has a drink problem. But what really saddens me is that his enemies within the party believe they can shunt him aside by bringing his private illness into the public arena and taint him as being somehow unfit to hold his position. Can you say "morally bankrupt"?


At 12:40 PM, Blogger Cocaine Jesus said...

i read this after the event as it were. poor old chap. out on his ear. strikes me that the lib dems are no better than labour or tory.

At 5:30 AM, Blogger Minerva said...

But what about the fact he lied about it for so long? Doesn't that make a difference?

At 9:22 PM, Blogger Londinium said...

It's alcoholism rather than a secret plot to destabilize the Middle East... and as we should understand, addictions are hard to admit to, let alone come to terms with...


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