I've got nothing to confess ...


The arrival of the Pope in Scotland has prompted me to confess that I’ve got nothing interesting going on in my life.  Unlike Wayne Rooney or William Hague, there is absolutely nothing that, if revealed, would make good newspaper fodder. 

This realisation has prompted me to wonder when it was that we started to find the inside of other people’s lives so interesting?  And when did this interest cross the line from, I wonder what she keeps in the bathroom cabinet? to I wonder what kind of sex life that couple have?

Granted, life has always had its secrets, and where there is a secret, there is a story.  But at what point in time did newspaper reporting slip from genteel innuendo to full-blown revelation?  When did confession become an acceptable route out of PR disaster?  And is it still the right route?

This seems to be an issue that divides the political world.  On the right we have William Hague, who used the opportunity of a minor scandal to reveal more information about his marriage than I needed to know, while on the left we have Tony Blair whose confessional memoirs about more serious matters seem, by comparison, half-hearted and frankly lacking in spunk.  

In politics we now expect denial to come hand in hand with confession and the more fulminant, personal and unrelated the confession, the more decisive and credible the resulting denial is seen to be. 

We’ve come to know our politicians by the workings of their private lives as they literally bear their souls to us as part of the electoral process.  The UK is not alone here.  We know a lot about the Sarkozy's marriage because they want us to know it.  We know that Berlesconi can’t resist being one of the boys when the opportunity arises.  We even had it straight from the redoubtable Mrs Clinton that her husband is a hard dog to keep on the porch. 

But wait a minute.  Did I read that Wayne Rooney’s missus had asked for some time to sort out their marriage?  And wasn’t that just a week after William Hague’s confessional statement about the most private aspects of his marriage?  Something seems a bit topsy-turvy when a footballers wife asks for privacy while a politician bears all about his private life.  Let's hope this is the start of a new order where we no longer see public soul-bearing as a route to rehabilitation.

Ruth Ashton