The leftward and other blatherings of Span (now with Snaps!)

Sunday, May 08, 2005

when is an affair the nation's affair?

News of the break-up of Prebble's second marriage due to an affair with a journalist (hat tip: DPF) has brought up that Old Chestnut for me - is it anyone else's business just because Prebble is a politician? Should his suitability for public life be judged by his behaviour in his private life?

In favour:
- if a person will betray their spouse then surely they might betray others, eg their party, their voters, their country
- if you can judge someone by the way they treat their cats then the way they treat their next of kin ought to also be at least mildly indicative

- someone could well have different standards regarding their private and public interactions
- just as a person's sexuality has no bearing on their suitability for public life neither should their marital status or bedroom antics

I'm ambivalent - I have many other reasons for having a very dim opinion of Prebble and, while the break-up of a marriage always makes me a bit sad, my view of Mr I'll Save The Railways really couldn't get any lower.


Graham Watson said...

I'm sure this is tragic not only for Doreen but Richard. We often forget political represenatives are people too.

I favour respecting individual privacy, they are not owned by the state or the electorate.

span said...

But do what extent do they open themselves up for extra scrutiny? Is it in the public interest or is it just that the public is (pruriently) interested?

Let's put this shoe on the other foot - did Clinton's transgressions undermine his ability as President? or his suitability to be President?

An affair involves lying to at least one person, usually the person who trusts you the most (your spouse). So if a politician is prepared to lie to that person how can we determine whether they are trustworthy in a more general sense?

To be honest my view of a person does lower when I hear these things - it may be a judgement of them as a person rather than a politician, but it would colour my reaction to their politics too - not much, but a little bit.

Nigel Kearney said...

I'm a big fan of Prebble generally, but it definitely matters.

We place a huge amount of trust in the people we elect, and a clearcut example of a candidate breaking their promise has to be taken into account.

When it is someone who has a good track record of keeping their promises to the public, there can be less weight attached to breaking private ones. It should be pointed out that Prebble did save the Railways and didn't sell it - National did that.

Sexuality and marital status don't matter because they don't involve breach of trust.

Commie Mutant Traitor said...

That's comparing apples with lemurs. If Prebble had left his wife locked up to starve, comparisons with Tamihere would be appropriate. Having an affair is definitely a bad thing, but I generally thing people's private lives should remain private, no matter who they are - unless they're trying to interfere with other people's private lives in which case they're fair game.

span said...

isn't every politician interfering with other people's private lives, by pure definition of being a politician????

Commie Mutant Traitor said...

Possibly, depending on how you define things, but I was thinking more along the lines of blatant hypocricy, eg condemning civil unions as an assault on the sanctity of marriage while simultaneously cheating on their own wife/husband.

span said...

yes good point - what is more undermining to the institution of marriage, same-sex unions or adultery? i would also throw domestic abuse into the mix.

AL said...

I can't see why the Prebble thing is important. Worth a mention, sure. Important to voters - not really.