Saturday, 5 April 2008

(Ed: Interesting to see liberalism struggling with its instinctive dislikes!)

[...] The difficulty for Mosley is that his alleged activities instinctively feel both private and secret. It's also quite clear that London would now be choosing between Boris Johnson and Brian Paddick if it had been Livingstone in the News of the World's video. The problem has always been where the line should be drawn, partly because the boundaries shift. Forty years ago, divorce could end the career of a children's entertainer; now, the disqualifying threshold seems to be use of class-A drugs. But is this morality now solid, or might there be a future in which a known cokehead can continue being cheeky for pre-schoolers on TV?

The latter seems unlikely but the fluidity of definitions is a constant difficulty. A common view, sanctified by the Press Complaints Commission, is that there must be a direct connection - usually hypocrisy or conflict of interest - between private and public conduct. So a bishop's mistress is a different matter from a baker's. But this rule is difficult for Mosley. Just as the children of a home secretary must expect more scrutiny of their drug use than the average adolescent, so the son of the leader of the British Union of Fascists needs to be extra careful, even behind closed doors, about touching certain sores.

However, even a divided society must agree that certain private actions make it impossible to head a public organisation. These are proven racism (or other discrimination) or unwanted sexual attention, whether rape, paedophilia or harassment. Mosley can argue that his sex life is consenting. But he has to prove that his preferred perversity was, as it were, innocent. If it proves to have any hint of anti-semitic or pro-Nazi sentiment, then, regardless of how it ceased to be private, he must leave any public role at the speed of a Ferrari. But if he's got five kids by three different women, that's his business. Read more
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