No Sex Please, He's British

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The Washington Post Online's Jefferson Morley (forever famous as "one of the few journalists with the courage to try crack before reporting on it") anatomizes a Britain-based sex scandal that's roiling Tony Blair's reelection campaign. The short version: Home Secretary David Blunkett had been involved with, then spurned by, "American socialite" Kimberly Quinn.

The result is a lesson in international, coff coff, affairs:

The Blunkett affair is a reminder that the political sex scandal, like rock and roll music, is an Anglo-Saxon art form that the Europeans have never mastered. Time and again, the elites of "Old Europe" have proven themselves utterly incapable of whipping themselves into a frenzy about their leaders' love lives.

In the French press, for example, Mrs. Jacques Chirac is occasionally quoted commenting wryly on her 72-year old husband's habitual (some say pathetic) infidelities. In America, such a revelation would go straight to page one. In Paris, Chirac's rivals and the French press corps choose not to choreograph the details of the president's private life into a melodrama of political morality. Some will see evidence that the French are cynical and lack values, others that Americans are arrogant and lack manners. Either way, you have the gist of the European-American political impasse—and you don't have to read Thomas Friedman to get it.

The good news in any of this?

"The furor over Blunkett "is unlikely to derail Blair's election campaign," said the Mirror, "but may add to a mood of public mistrust in government."

Whole thing here.

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  1. 1. It’s not a sex scandal. It’s a possible abuse-of-power scandal. Blunkett reportedly “perhaps” helped fast-track his gf’s nanny’s visa.

    2. Blunkett is a dangerous, ashcroft-kinda guy. The Brits would be well rid of him.

  2. I imagine Blunkett will survive as the actual ‘public interest’ allegations against him look pretty thin – a couple of free train tickets and helping someone with a visa application. Also, he is one of Blair’s key allies in the ‘fight against terror’.

    From a libertarian perspective it is probably win-win though. Either he survives and his freedom to do as he pleases in his private life is maintained or he has to resign and Britain loses the most authoritarian Home Secretary for many years.

  3. Turns out the woman is hot, and the guy has been blind since birth. What a total waste. Why don’t blind guys have affairs with ugly girls? I know libertarians are against most forms of government intrusion, but can’t we support a law making blind guys date the ugly girls?

  4. So did that reporter have to sleep with Kimberly Quinn before he could report on the scandal? For integrity’s sake, of course.

  5. Good link, Raymond. I saw another story this morning about Blunkett wanting to issue madatory ID cards. This strikes me as “let’s worry about a sex scandal, just ignore the civil liberties abuses”

    As for something else not exactly on topic. I notice Kimberly Quinn is identified as the “publisher of the right-wing magazine, the Spectator”.

    Does the WaPo (or any other MSM organ) ever identify anything as a left-wing magazine?

  6. “madatory” should be “mandatory”

  7. Isaac Bertram,

    The European press generally identifies itself ideologically. Thus Le Figaro identifies itself as “right-wing and Lib?ration as communist.

    I have been told that many American journalists hate this; that they view it as unseemly and unprofessional.

  8. I was referring to the habit of US mainstream media outlets referring to, say, the Spectator as “the right-wing magazine, the Spectator”

    They almost never refer to the Nation as “the Left-wing magazine, the Nation” or the Guardian as “the Left-wing newspaper, the Guardian”.

    I realize that on the continent media are much more blatantly partisan and this tends to make for a somewhat robust public discourse.

  9. Our journalists only find it “unseemly and unprofessional” because they’re either deluded or dishonest. It’s normal to have a point of view and abnormal or dishonest to pretend you don’t or that it doesn’t affect how you present the facts you report.

    An openly and honestly partisan mass press – one of the few things the Old World has on the New.

  10. “It’s not a sex scandal. It’s a possible abuse-of-power scandal. Blunkett reportedly “perhaps” helped fast-track his gf’s nanny’s visa.”

    Wow! That’s really hilarious. Fast-tracking a nanny’s visa, no less! Of course a serious abuse-of-power! Be scared! Be very scared! Next time he probably will ask for a free lunch at the Savoy.

    That ‘raymond’ character really is a hoot.

  11. The latest on the Blunkett story.

    That ‘raymond’ character really is a hoot.

    Why? Because my account of the affair was rather more accurate than that quoted in the Washington Post?

    Be scared! Be very scared! Next time he probably will ask for a free lunch at the Savoy.

    Oh, there are lots better reasons for the Brits to be afraid of Blunkett than the train ticket.

    It might be worth your while to peruse the blog linked to above as well as the wikipedia entry on Blunkett, where one can read:

    Another controversial area for Blunkett has been civil liberties (which he famously described as “airy fairy”). In 2003 he announced an extension of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIP) Act which critics have condemned as a “snoopers’ charter”. His 2003 Criminal Justice Bill reduced legal safeguards such as the right to trial by jury and double jeopardy rules. He is attempting to introduce compulsory national identity cards (initially called “entitlement cards”, though this euphemism has now been dropped).

    These measures have earned him the nickname Big Blunkett , a reference to the Orwellian concept of Big Brother.

    And finally, as a libertarian posting on a libertarian board, I’d like to recommend this:

    “We could live in a world which is airy fairy, libertarian, where everybody does precisely what they like and we believe the best of everybody and then they destroy us.” Blunkett, Nov 2001.

    (BBC).

    From a libertarian perspective it is probably win-win though. Either he survives and his freedom to do as he pleases in his private life is maintained or he has to resign and Britain loses the most authoritarian Home Secretary for many years.

    I disagree vigourously. The longer he stays, the longer (and the more) you lose.

  12. My comment that from a libertarian point of view it is probably win-win was slightly tongue in cheek.

    I would be very glad to see the back of Blunkett. I just don’t think anyone should be hounded from office over a couple of train tickets and a visa application. This could just as easily happen to a champion of liberty and all round good egg.

    On a slightly different note, I’d like to mention another of Blunkett’s assaults on freedom – the Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO). ASBO’s can be issued without the recipient being convicted of a criminal offence. They can ban you from pretty well anything. I have heard of cases of bans from ‘wearing a hood’, ‘playing football’, ‘being sarcastic’. These orders can last for life. Breach of an ASBO is a criminal offence that is punishable by upto 5 years in prison.

  13. ….the Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO).

    If you hadn’t explained it I might have thought it was from a Monty Python skit. But I see it’s not the least bit funny.

  14. I just don’t think anyone should be hounded from office over a couple of train tickets and a visa application.

    That I agree with. He should be hounded from office because his policies are unacceptable.

    ASBOs. CCTV. (Or did the tories start that?) Habeas corpus. And so on. (Surprising that it should be the Lords which is trying to protect freedom.) People are in the streets demonstrating in favour of fox hunting, but all this other stuff… Not a shout.

  15. “Combining reforming zeal with social conservatism, he became a favourite of new party leader Tony Blair.” (from wikipedia entry on Blunkett)

    raymond, what I find even more disturbing than his policies is the fact that they are POPULAR. So he’s unlikely to be hounded from office over them. Besides that is an electoral matter, abuse of power is a legal one. This “Combining reforming zeal with social conservatism….” is a certain vote-getter just about anywhere. When the Dems discover it and combine it with a string of likeable candidates they’ll have it made.

    “I just don’t think anyone should be hounded from office over a couple of train tickets and a visa application.”

    Abuse of power is as good a reason as any for hounding someone from office. If he greased the skids for a visa application for his girfriend’s nanny, that might be improper use of power, and an investigation is called for. After all this is the guy who’s called for crackdowns on immigrants but he’s found one exception? If what he did was normal service that any constituent who asked would get that is another matter.

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