I’m the Home Secretary…Get Me Out of Here!
spiked editor Mick Hume's Notebook in The Times (London).
- Whenever I catch sight of a reality television show, I seem to find myself shouting: ‘Why would anybody expose themselves to that?’
Why would anybody camp in a jungle, eat creepy crawlies, remove maggots from each other’s orifices, cry their eyes out and reveal their intimate lives in front of millions of viewers? Why would any couple have sex on camera, and then watch their performance dissected by ‘sex inspectors ‘? Why would other couples volunteer to swap wives and have their dirty washing filmed as mass entertainment? Why would anybody invite lifestylists, fashionistas, health fanatics, obsessive cleaners and other motley experts from moronic makeover shows to tell them what dull, filthy, fat, badly-dressed losers they are?
I suppose the answer today is: ‘Why not?’ Our society seems to have lost any clear sense of the line between what is public and what should be private. There is no longer any shame, but often fame, in exposing yourself to public ridicule. Any remaining self-awareness about how you might appear is overwhelmed by the self-obsessed need to share your innermost thoughts and feelings with the world.
It is common to blame this tell-all culture on people who go on trashy talk shows, or second-rate celebrities desperate for publicity. But the blurring of the line between public and private comes from the top down. It begins with public bodies that demand to peer into our private business in the name of promoting health, security or good parenting. And with a Government whose Cabinet ministers seem to have no idea of where public ends and private should begin.
David Blunkett says that he is entitled to a private life. Normally I would be the first to draw a heavy veil over politicians’ love lives. But he stands revealed as a man who has little more notion of what privacy might mean than does Jordan the glamour model. In their increasingly bitter battle over the parentage of Kimberly Quinn’s children, Mr Blunkett and his former lover are behaving like contestants in a sordid episode of I’m the Home Secretary . . . Get Me Out of Here! They seem determined to conduct this most private of arguments in the media spotlight, with both sides briefing reporters through leaks and ‘close friends’, while Mr Blunkett deploys civil servants in lieu of a PR agent.
His disreputable attempt to break up a family, even threatening to parade their private business through the courts, suggests that this grey public figure has had a makeover and now sports the fashionable attitude of it’s-all-about-me. The Home Secretary has made himself look like a cheap celebrity, competing for public sympathy with an ex-partner by exposing their lives and those of their children for public titillation. Why would anybody want to do that?
- There is another sense in which Mr Blunkett has revealed himself as a man of his time – or rather, a boy.
He has allegedly been acting like an obsessed, lovesick teenager for whom nothing else matters. We know about the Peter Pan generation of irresponsible twenty and thirtysomethings who refuse to grow up. But ‘adultesence’ seems to have spread to fiftysomethings with grown-up children of their own.
The Home Secretary’s predilection for illiberal measures has prompted some to brand him a Big Brother figure. ‘Little Brother’ now seems more like it. We have an adolescent authoritarian in Whitehall, a petulant Peter Pan with his hands on the levers of state power. That seems rather scarier than the pantomime villains brought on to justify his petulant bans and crackdowns.
- Perhaps the confusion over what it means to be an adult explains why we find child-raising so complicated today.
The Times reports an apparently serious debate between psychiatrists over Santa Claus. One argues that believing in Santa may ‘foster kindness and co-operation’. Others give warning that finding out later that Santa does not exist ‘threatens a child’s trust’. Those of us who suggest that Santa might simply be harmless fun for kids risk being dismissed as more outdated than the old bloke in the beard.
Meanwhile, Santa has been banned from two hospitals for older people with dementia because humourless officials say he might treat them ‘like children’. Perhaps we might start by treating our children more like children this Christmas.
Mick Hume is editor of spiked
This article is republished from The Times (London)
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