We love seeing the fall of the undeservedly mighty
There's plenty of sleazy action from politicians at the moment to keep us amused, writes Ruth Dudley Edwards
Life is enjoyable for political anoraks at the moment. We labour to understand budgets, public spending cuts and the significance of new EUlegislation, but we crave a bit of light relief.
Ideally, we'd like an enjoyable scandal every few weeks to raise our spirits as we pore over speeches and policy documents, but these days there are so many we can hardly keep up.
Chris Huhne was a narcissistic Liberal Democrat British Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change until his wife, senior economist Vicky Pryce, exacted revenge for his leaving her (for his ex-lesbian election agent) by revealing that he'd persuaded her to take his speeding points. She landed them both in prison. It was exciting to see a Cabinet minister jailed (even if in Britain – unlike Ireland – it's quite commonplace to lock up dishonest politicians) and ironic when Pryce's new lover, ex-MP Denis MacShane, who was once a Labour minister, was subsequently jailed for expenses fraud. Now Constance Briscoe, a barrister and part-time judge, on trial for perverting the course of justice in the Huhne affair, has said that Pryce told her that Huhne had gay liaisons and had given her a sexually transmitted disease.
She also claimed that when Huhne called at the family home, the elfin Pryce gave him two black eyes. (Well, she is Greek.)
Simultaneously, the media have been slavering over the story of Lord Rennard, the Lib Dems' brilliant electoral strategist, who is accused by some female party activists of being a sex pest, refuses to apologise because he says he's innocent and has been suspended by the party, which is now engaged in a furious internecine warfare with lawsuits being threatened from every direction. Now although the Lib Dems think they're the nicest party, they have the reputation of being the nastiest and they're living up to it.
Lord Carlile QC, Rennard's legal adviser, who is usually to be heard opining learnedly about anti-terrorist legislation, wrote a hysterical article saying "the approach of the party has made the North Korean judicial system seem benign, and anything done by Henry VIII's thugs to extract confessions from Anne Boleyn's courtiers gentle". And just to make life even worse for Party Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Mike Hancock, an MP and senior Lib Dem, has also been suspended following a leaked report that he had made "unwelcome sexual approaches" to a vulnerable constituent.
Across the Channel, of course there's what's being called "Vaudeville a l'Elysee". Although President Hollande's popularity has risen a bit since it emerged that he was cheating on his First Lady (well France is France and she's deeply unpopular), he's demonstrating his general uselessness by dithering about if, how or when to get rid of her.
She's alleged to have smashed various priceless artifacts in his office as an indication of her disapproval of his conduct and won't go quietly.
With all this excitement, the trial of Rebekah Brooks – successively editor of the News of the World, of The Sun and Chief Executive of News International and once close to innumerable politicians – her husbandCharlie, her ex-lover Andy Coulson and others on various charges to do with phone hacking and/or conspiracy to pervert the course of justice has been getting little attention, not least because it's been running for 11 weeks and has been bogged down in baffling technicalities about who owned which missing Blackberries or iPhones or iPads.
However, things briefly livened up last week when the court heard about the contents of two bags allegedly concealed by Charlie Brooks in a black binliner behind a rubbish skip in an underground car park, found by a cleaner and passed to the police.
Now I can grasp why he might have wished to hide a News International laptop, an iPad, a smartphone and various technological accoutrements, but I'm baffled as to why the stash also included homeopathic medicine, a Wimbledon tennis programme and a newsletter from the British Kunekune Pig Society.
(Kunekunes are small and friendly and make good pets, if that helps.) However, it wasn't the pigs that got the attention of the media, it was the magazine, Lesbian Lovers, and seven DVDs called Lanny, Tera and Briana, Stars Entre Elles, Where the Boys aren't 17, Bride of Sin, Instant Lesbian, Lesbian Psychodrama Volume 2, Lesbian Psychodramas Volume 3 and 10 Petites Salopes (little sluts).
Private Eye obligingly provided its readers with a mock-up of a front page of the now defunct News of the World: "That News of the World you'll never see", sporting a photograph of Mr and Mrs Brooks, the headline "Bekka's Chazza in Lezza Luvvaz Rozzer Quiz" with the subheading "Who's Bin a Right Charlie?"
It's not that I lack compassion. It's just that it's human nature to enjoy seeing the fall of the undeserving mighty. And even political anoraks are human.