Tanya Gold

In bed with politicians

Who on earth wants to know about the leaders' children, pets, kitchens and favourite biscuits?

In bed with politicians
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Who on earth wants to know about the leaders' children, pets, kitchens and favourite biscuits?

I am sitting in the audience at Labour party conference, watching a tribute video to Gordon Brown. As Brown smiles, walks, talks, scowls and moves his limbs up and down, giving a fairly decent impersonation of a soon-to-be-discontinued toy, I have a sudden realwisation. I don't know if Stanley Baldwin liked Murray Mints. I have never seen Winston Churchill sob on Piers Morgan's lap, like cheese melting on toast. And I - I - I have no idea whether Clement Attlee had a nice kitchen.

Why is this? Is it because the private lives and decoration choices - the mood boards, if you will - of politicians used to be yucky, but shrouded? That, in what I call the Pre-Boden Era, no politician felt the need to go fishing topless and be photographed doing it?

But that was in the Olden Days. Now they hurl their lifestyles and even their fecundity at us in a sweet-smelling blur - half soap opera, half advertising without the small print. So this year I have watched David Cameron jog, eat, kiss his wife and children, and eat some more. I have seen him go on holiday and come back again. I have heard him say why he loves his wife and - in a separate media opportunity - heard why, and how, she loves him back. Sometimes I think I am living in their kitchen. Or maybe it is Nick Clegg's kitchen. He has a lovely kitchen too - and don't I just know it. Sometimes I think I am actually in bed with them all. Thank God they do not have a dog.

And if you are reading this, Cameron spin-doctor, forget it. Don't get a dog. Don't sink to it, even if Barack Obama did with the White House puppy, which I hope some evil fate will befall. And don't pretend to get a dog either. I am already buried under an avalanche of feel-good, think-later reportage which, in analytical terms, amounts to nothing more than a big, slobbering kiss. I don't think I could handle a dog.

And that is just the Camerons. What about the Browns? Well, I feel like I have been in marriage guidance with them for ever and it's not going well.

And the Miliband brothers? Well, I know that they love each other very much, when one isn't trying to destroy everything the other ever cared for. I know that Ed's kitchen is in Dartmouth Park and David's kitchen is in Primrose Hill. I know that Ed loves Dallas and David doesn't, or at least he won't admit to it, or maybe has simply forgotten how he felt about Dallas.

I feel I know everything or, at least, I know too much. I know far more than I want to know.

The terrible thing about this grisly phenomenon is not how cruel it is to the politicians' children, even as I imagine them in self-help groups in 2036: 'Sometimes I think Daddy loved me more when the cameras were on.' Nor is it how unkind it is to the politicians themselves, even though they co-operate and even though I've met the Sky News cameraman and I wouldn't want him in my kitchen, no matter how high the stakes and how nice the kitchen.

It's not even how boring it is. It's the evasion, the reduction and the way it rots proper political discourse until we're all in Hallmark-land, writing loving squiggles on a card about nothing. The more I hear about David Cameron's kitchen, the less I hear about his policies. The more I know about Sarah's love for Brown and Brown's for Sarah, presumably against the backdrop of a kitchen, the less I know about why the Labour campaign collapsed in May. The closer they come, the more they recede, wafting away on a sea of bogus informality and soft furnishings.

Some will say it's good to call the PM Dave and to know what makes him cry. Nah, I say - a Christian name doesn't mean you care. So why? Who has done this to us? Villain A is obviously that prowling crack-monster the 24-hour media, which is insatiable for fluff because it's easy, feel-good and, above all, non-libellous. I ask a print journalist: why do we have so many profiles of Samantha Cameron, who is not that interesting, even if she does create exquisite leather goods? 'Features pages,' she replies. 'The Camerons are good for filling sidebars.'

Although I am sometimes tempted to give this a Marxist interpretation - the Cameron kitchen is there to blind us to what David Cameron will do to other people's kitchens - I know this is the theory of a paranoiac. It is less sinister than that. Our media is, above all, a game of dominoes. If one carries the Samantha-Cameron-has-face story, the others must too, in case they miss something and are screamed at - it's that simple. 'We missed the Samantha Cameron-has-face scoop!' I fancy a journalist telling an editor. 'To the pit,' says the editor, 'and don't come back without a scoop about her knickers.'

Please don't think I consider myself above this. I once asked David Cameron what his favourite supermarket is, although in my defence I forgot the reply even before he had forgotten the question.

This is probably the point where Villain A, the media, hurls the blame onto you, Villain B, the luckless consumer of Samantha-Cameron-has-face story. It's your fault, idiot reader. You want to be in David Cameron's kitchen. We, the media, are innocent. We were only in the kitchen because of you in the first place.

But perhaps there is a kinder theory, one that absolves us all. We are, in our foolishness, seeking evidence that they are human. That is why we are in their kitchens, reader. Nothing can make a voter feel safer than seeing the PM eat mushroom risotto.

Feel better? You shouldn't. Ed Miliband's one-year-old son Daniel is, as I type, learning to walk.

Tanya Gold writes for the Guardian.