The acting one sees upon the stage doesn’t show how human beings actually comport themselves in crises, but simply how actors think they ought to. It is the same with politicians, but they are not actors, only a sort of reductio ad absurdum of a thespian. Their profession bears the same relation to proper acting (so-called) as that of a card sharp or a divorce lawyer bears to poetry. Take Michael Gove, whom I have known since I was 21, and Matt Hancock, whom (I thank God fasting) I don’t know at all. Were this a play, Hancock would not have left his wife and three children for a well-known flirt, who I have seen in action on several occasions fluttering her eyelashes at other married men. As for the Goves, I am sorry that they are divorcing, but it is unusual that there is no third party involved. Politicians generally say this to make their divorces appear more palatable; thus friends of Boris made the same assertion when he and Marina parted, something that turned out to be untrue.
But it is not the case, as Sarah Vine recently wrote, that all political marriages end in failure. There are many happy unions in politics. My parents’ was one. Although my father was an MP, shadow minister and member of the Lords, I don’t recall his character changing for the worse, as Ms Vine claimed was inevitable. My father never neglected his wife or children or began refusing to wash up. He had always refused to wash up. (Incidentally, I would never let Michael Gove near my kitchen, as everything about the visible universe fills him with terror.) Admittedly, my father had four wives, but not for lack of attention, and indeed perhaps because of a surfeit of it; the first three left him for other men, including a conscientious objector and a male model.
The truth is that politicians today possess none of the clean traditions of those of the past. Moreover, they would like us to think that the average powerful, successful man is unable to confine himself to one partner and never has been. Not so. Was Otto von Bismarck not a successful man? If so, he was a strict monogamist and always faithful to his wife Johanna. Again, there is William Gladstone, Ulysses S. Grant, Andrew Jackson, Churchill, Attlee, Harold Wilson, Ronald Reagan, George Bush Sr. I could extend the list for pages. But those men, unlike Gove and Hancock, had public spirit, honesty, honour and courage. They stood under no obligation to anything but their principles. This lot today are like bent coppers, and even then they don’t always stay bought.
I am intrigued by Carrie Johnson’s choice of clothes; a mixture of Stepford wife and human sacrifice. She did recently don a blue trouser suit, but she rather resembled one of the victims of Carousel in Logan’s Run.
I was delighted to be invited on to GB News last week. I was the principal interviewee on Dan Wootton’s nightly segment. We had a great deal of fun, and engaged in much good-natured ribbing, which these days is as rare as an unoccluded ruby. The most pernicious aspect of woke culture is that it seeks to drain life of all joy. Even clothing has been affected. There is now a woke way to dress. A vintage website that I used to buy from puts a disclaimer under a 1960s gown with a fur trim, saying it is ‘representative of a time in history that was different than our modern outlook’. Strange how woke people struggle with grammar, but perhaps grammar, like dresses with fur trims, has become a symbol of white privilege.
There is a debate within the Tory party as to whether it would be desirable to attack cancel culture or to ignore it, on the grounds that it is a ‘Westminster bubble’ matter and of little concern to the average Conservative. This, according to pollster Frank Luntz, would be political suicide; 81 per cent of Tories believe the UK is a nation ‘of equality and freedom’, but half of Labour voters says it is ‘racist and discriminatory’. Boris, who tries to be all things to all men, women and transgender folk ever since he met Carrie, has been displaying a kind of moronic ignorance of the wishes of his core base. But to continue with his Prince Harryfication under the showgirl-red manicured thumbs of the First Wife could prove his Götterdämmerung, perilous as the asp at Cleopatra’s breast. Wokeism is the new socialism, the battleground over which future elections will be won and lost.
Netflix has hired me as a consultant on a documentary about Ghislaine Maxwell. I must be one of the few people who do not regard her as having the vices of Lady Macbeth, Countess Báthory and Madame Claude combined. She could be curiously tin-eared, once inviting a happily married friend of mine to meet Bill Clinton in a hotel suite. Needless to say, my friend declined. Back in the 1990s, I used to see teenage girls with eyes the colour of Verveine at some of the extravagant parties I was invited to. Looking back, I have a fair idea of why they were there. But it never occurred to me to ask their ages or protest their presence. Was I complicit?