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June 3, 2013updated 29 Jan 2016 12:13pm

Why Are We So Surprised by Politicians Shortcomings?

By Alessandro Tome

Alessandro Tomé wonders whether the Huhne scandal represents a new development in the history of male-female relations or merely another good reason to watch Animal Planet instead of the news

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Alessandro Tomé wonders whether the Huhne scandal represents a new development in the history of male-female relations or merely another good reason to watch Animal Planet instead of the news

WHAT I FIND fascinating is that after all these years and all the scandals unearthed or invented and certainly always exaggerated, nothing seems to surprise the British public quite as much as their politicians’ failings and shortcomings.

Hence their great appetite for every last detail of stories such as Chris Huhne’s downfall that wouldn’t make the eighteenth page of most newspapers in the rest of Europe, and then probably under ‘Amusing Anecdotes’. (In Italy, Huhne’s mistress’s bisexuality would bump the story up to page five, under ‘Social Issues’.)

Who but you would care so much as to waste whole chunks of the Amazon forest, let alone your own money, to see a politician jailed for lying about three points on his licence?

Really? With what is going on out there? Soldiers dying in far-away places, violent crime soaring as a side-effect of continued economic mismanagement and financial ignorance and indecisiveness, one Kate having a baby and the other Kate having a breast-shrinking operation?

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I am, of course, not questioning the illegality of the offence, nor minimising the fact that politicians are not above reproach, even though I don’t see any of us as saints. We are all sinners, so how could one elect anything but a sinner? And if they are meant to represent us, they wouldn’t represent us very well if they were indeed saints.

Politicians have always been flawed and the system they function in is designed to be corrupt by its nature, as it is based on the need for re-election. But the best politicians that this or indeed most democratic nations have had were probably the most flawed.

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It is just that their greatness allowed us to look away — their greatness and, unlike now, a more intelligent media. The point remains that overall, we just don’t like looking at ourselves in the mirror, so we pretend they are not one of us, all the easier to watch being crucified.

Let us not mistake Huhne for one of the best politicians of his era. He was just another petty MP completely devoid of any greatness (most of the current crop are) who jumped his employee (most of the current crop wish they had).

Like so many, he is only bloated with his own sense of importance and so the fascination for me was more for his ultimate show of impotence in the face of revenge. And for that the Huhne story was priceless.

The Birth of the Kamikaze Spouse

L’affaire Pryce has opened a whole new dimension in post-marital (or post-coital) warfare: the birth of the Kamikaze Spouse. While not previously unknown, most instances of disregard for oneself in the desire for marital revenge are borne out of logical blindness brought upon by emotional overload and tend to happen early on in the separation process.

There is also longer-winded, coldly calculated revenge, matured over time in highly functional mental processes, which is not meant to hurt the exactor. But here the explosive mixture of both marks a dangerous new departure.

I’ve started to look at Angel Wife slightly askew; God knows, she has enough reason to reach for the axe or (far worse) the telephone to dial up some journalist.

I’ve eaten her cereal in the morning and left my coat on the couch. Haven’t I nagged her for the soap I like and made too much noise when getting to bed? Aren’t I careless with the number of shirts I use? Do I always remember to send her flowers every week?

And how vengeful could she get? Could she go as far as depriving herself of electricity in order to make me go to bed earlier, or selling the couch so I can’t leave my coat there any more? Would she even not feed herself so I couldn’t complain about dinner? But none of these is likely, for she truly is an angel. A very tolerant, very calm angel.

Let L’affaire Pryce be a lesson to all negligent spouses: for those who truly cause pain, vengeance may be exacted even at a heavy cost to the avenger.

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Bristol Fashion

A part from a profound dislike of Paris’s taxi drivers and numerous French waiters, not to mention the risk of being taxed on arrival for the clothes you wear, the idea of a night in Paris is always rather alluring. Romance, of course, but also sights, sounds, food, fashion and style tinged with a smattering of smut and decadence: it can only make for an enticing delight.

But somehow this remains more often than not another sexy fantasy, rather than sensual reality. Never quite the right time, never quite enough time, always a little too tired at the thought of travelling… Until business reasons obliged me to be there for a day and I managed to convince Angel Wife it would be nice to make it there on Sunday for one night.

We were wisely directed towards staying at the fabled Hôtel Le Bristol. Somehow it was felt that it would be absolutely perfect for me to follow in the footsteps of the 4th Earl of Bristol, who was infatuated with luxury and all refined things in life and after whom the hotel is named. Flattered by such comparisons, I was immediately sold on the idea.

Wise choice indeed. Yes, Paris has so much going for it that you would think where you stay isn’t that relevant, but I disagree. As I was looking over the rooftops at dusk, catching sight of the Sacré-Coeur, Tour Eiffel and Grand Palais all at once, from a wonderfully Parisian room oozing classic French elegance, it felt even better than I remembered it.

I noted in particular the service. It was immaculate, absolutely impeccable. Affable without being asphyxiating. Just as you would have imagined it to be from all the rom-coms set in France. We were able to dine in the hotel’s exceptional three-Michelin-starred Epicure restaurant. And even though Angel Wife hadn’t wanted a gastronomic dinner, she is still raving about it. Light, original yet traditional, absolutely divine and not so stuffy as we usually remember them.

I think even the earl would be satisfied; no, I would say impressed. So were we, and in spite of the taxi drivers, we will be back.

Read more from Alessandro Tome

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