Legends and Leaders, or Satans and Spinners

By Joe Mellor, In house Reporter 

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“I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.” – Nelson Mandela.

When the world revisited the great man’s quotes after his death, this one seemed to resonate with a lot of people.

Mandela’s words seems pertinent in light of French President Francois Hollande’s alleged sexual antics. However, the French seem to have a different approach when it comes to politicians sinning, especially of the flesh variety.

Gallic presidents have a long tradition of infidelity. Former President Jacques Chirac’s wife, Bernadette, has talked of women throwing themselves at him. His predecessor François Mitterrand turned out to have a second family that included an illegitimate daughter, who drew great attention when she appeared at his funeral.

There were claims that previous French President Nikolas Sakorzy and wife Carla Bruni had an ‘open relationship’. Whether this is true or not, on the other side of the channel even a rumour of a British PM partaking in this type of relationship would end his or her career faster than Hollande’s Vespa en route to Rue what have I done.

But how are we, the stiff upper-lipped British supposed to have a moral compass when our leaders and legends don’t seem to have one themselves? Imagine if Labour won the next election and Ed Miliband declared he was in an “open relationship,” or Ed Balls? Mmm, Jack Straw? Eurgh. This could go on all night..

Maybe Andy Burnham has a certain boyish charm, more akin to Doogie Howser MD than a future Health Secretary or PM. Perhaps David Miliband’s banishment from the upper echelons of government wasn’t driven because of fears of his political prowess, but because the rest of the shadow cabinet were jealous after Justine Greening “twerked” with David in Strangers’ Bar.

But does someone’s private life impact on the talent and leadership qualities they bring to the world? Can we forgive Bill Clinton because he lied about a sneaky bout of fellatio? Probably. Can we forgive Woody Allen for marrying his step-daughter? Really not sure. Can we forgive Jimmy Saville, even though he raised millions for charity? Definitely not.

So do we really want to bury our head in the sand and stick to the old adage, “Don’t print the man, print the legend.” Are we happy to ignore that 77-year-old Gandhi slept naked with his 18-year-old grandniece, Elvis was romantically involved with Priscilla Presley when she was 14-years-old and JFK  made Bill Clinton look like Cliff Richard.

With Twitter (and other modern media forms) we are increasingly closer to our leaders and legends, whether they follow you back or not (thanks for nothing Lee Ryan). With the invention of Google Glass, perhaps in the future we will be able to follow these people 24/7, maybe even watch the US President sitting down to breakfast through his very own eyes. “Look, look, Obama doesn’t like Golden Grahams either, wow.”

We will soon realise that everyone is essentially the same, just some people have a better range of corn-based cereals.

At the same time never meet your leaders & legends, they always let you down. I once interviewed Shaun Ryder, he was respectable, polite and thoughtful. I was devastated.

Of course, we want prominent public figures to be better than us, otherwise why are we not out there saving the world too?

However, once the masterpiece is complete, the curtain falls and the war is adverted, a human being remains skin and bone. It is only our judgement that decides if these people are legends and leaders, or satans and spinners.

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