It’s a laugh, a good, belly-clutching laugh, because most of the time most of the people we elect as our representantives live in a different world. Even people as admired as Mary McAleese do things you or I wouldn’t do in a thousand years ( Mary caught a government jet from Dublin to Belfast the other week, with a government car to deliver her at one end and collect her at the other). So when they get caught saying one thing in public and something a lot less discreet in private, it’s schadenfreude time.
It’d be even more fun if we could forget that our reaction is totally unfair. It’s certainly a pleasure to see the world of the big-wigs sweating over the reaction to their indiscretions. But if your house had been bugged over the past six months, would you be happy for the tape to be played to your friends and neighbours? Different contexts prompt different kinds of language; we smile and wish someone a good morning, but that doesn’t prevent us mocking them to our spouse later in the day. And that’s OK. If we were all honest all the time, we’d drive each other mad and make the world unworkable. What was that old saying about our friends? Ah yes: if we knew what our friends really thought of us, we’d cut our throat.
Besides, we knew all along what was going on at the highest levels of politics, didn’t we? Of course US diplomats are busy collecting information on those they come in contact with. All diplomats do. Of course the London embassy was happy to supply information about the relationship between William Hague and Alan Duncan, who is gay and who shared a London flat with Hague at one time. Governments aren’t at all squeamish in their pursuit of information that could be of use to them, and like most of us they’re a lot less polite about friends and foes when they’re behind doors. Anybody with a smattering of common sense would know that.
Mind you, it’s still great fun catching the great and not-so-good with their pants down. More, please.