Friday, April 28, 2006

Dirty shagging

God I'm disappointed in 'Two Shags' Prescott. I had a long debate with M this evening about why this is. I think it's fair to say that we disagree over the extent to which we feel that a politician's extramarital conduct is an indication of his/her trustworthiness as a politician.

I see it thus: male married neurosurgeon has affair. May not make him a nice man, but has near-zero bearing on his ability to operate on brains, and potential brain operatees don't much care either way. Male married cabinet minister has affair. Whole different ball game. You need to be either pretty simple (to believe that there won't be uber fallout when the media get hold of it, or to neglect to consider that this might happen) or totally dick-led (to realise that this will happen and not care).

And if it was just you it was going to fall out on and you were ready for it, Edward VIII style, then I guess it's none of my business. But what about Mrs Male Cabinet Minister? What of her humiliation? I know some couples have 'arrangements', in which case she might just be furious at indiscreet secretion, but in this case the man himself has described his wife as 'devastated', while the press has had a field day talking about her impenetrable barnet.

So, simple or dick-led, I'm less inclined to give his unreconstructed arse the benefit of the doubt from this point forth.

And, like a good feminist, I am equally disgusted with Shag #2. Pissing on someone else's chips is extremely bad form. It's fair enough to pick them over if they've been chucked in the bin or left out for the seagulls, but otherwise, leave alone. There are rules.*

In the interests of balanced commentary on this issue (and before anyone else does it for me), I will add that I did once get off with a married man. Let's call him Simon. The year was 1998, and I was not long split from my Significant Ex. It was May Bank Holiday, and I was Up North, hanging out with Mick the Builder (actually, to be fair, doing slightly more than hanging out with him, but that's another story) et al.

Simon was one of the et al. We were all in a pub on the Sunday evening, the beer was flowing, the music was pounding, it was warm and not yet dark. I was arguing some point or other, something to do with how hard it was to adjust to a new reality and how people were treating me differently, but I hadn't changed, it was just my life that had changed, and he suddenly looked at me hard and then kissed me harder.

For a moment I thought this was some postmodern response to my point and we would sit back and laugh, but then I thought hang on, this is Lancashire, he's just taking his chances. And then I thought, but hang on, he's *married*. With *children*. What's *happening*?

I should make it clear that I had fancied Simon for years. About ten years, in fact. He was (and still is) a solid, sexy, working man. I remember when his first child was born: I was about 20 and couldn't believe that any woman would willingly get pregnant - but thinking that if it came to it, you could do worse on the fatherhood front. And here I was, snogging him on a warm spring evening. I was pretty hammered, but all my alarm bells were ringing.

We all went back to Mick's flat where, several hours later, I attempted to engage him in rational debate about this (yes, I know I should have gone home, but there was another story going on too). He lifted me onto the side in the kitchen, positioned himself assertively and said 'I always fancied you, curly top'.

He may or not have meant it of course, but either way I had to call upon my inner Lisa Simpson in order to get myself out of there. He came too, using the 'walk you home' pretext, and we had another physical altercation in the middle of Lytham Green. Look, Simon, I said. You need to go home. Don't do this to me. Just do the right thing.

He let his bike fall to the grass, held me by the shoulders and said "Jo, I've spent my whole fucking life doing the right fucking thing".

Part of me wanted to get right down to it, hoping that hidden speakers would start playing early Bruce Springsteen albums by way of accompaniment, but most of me knew that I didn't want to be someone's Wrong Thing, for all sorts of reasons. So after another brief tussle I watched him cycle off into the mist. He never did walk me home. We are still on speaking terms though -- but we never speak of that encounter.

What was all that about? I was trying to say that it's hard to say no, but sometimes you have to, even if you're not a politician, but definitely if you are. And here endeth this evening's lesson.


*This is a bad analogy (and I'm not even sure analogy is the right word) as there also needs to be a scenario where chips can make a break for freedom on their own, and seek out another hungry person to eat them all up. This is clearly moving into science fiction territory, and my word John Prescott would be a big bag of chips, but hey, it's late.


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