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We should keep our noses out of the Beckhams’ bedroom

spiked editor Mick Hume's Notebook in The Times (London) on national voyeurism.

Mick Hume

Mick Hume
Columnist

Topics Politics

This is a bit of random text from Kyle to test the new global option to add a message at the top of every article. This bit is linked somewhere.

  • Under the Sexual Offences Act, voyeurism is now a crime.

In which case, the police had better get the prison ships ready to intern a sizeable portion of the population. To judge by the latest carry-on about the Beckhams’ marital secrets, we are becoming a nation of prurient voyeurs. Never mind three in a marriage, there appear to be several million in theirs.

Of course we are familiar with the notion that the line between the public and the private is becoming increasingly blurred. Ours is a kiss-and-sell, confessional culture where celebrities become famous for their private lives rather than public achievements, and a Home Secretary (as David Blunkett was then) will parade his most personal affairs across the media.

Even so, this business of the Beckhams’ nanny surely marks a new low. A woman employed to care for their children breaks a confidentiality agreement and goes to the papers with her version of David and Victoria Beckham’s sexual and family secrets. A law lord refuses to stop publication because, he rules, the story is in ‘the public interest’. If publishing the intimate details of marital relations is now considered to be in the public interest, where will it end? Can the state set up CCTV in celebrity bedrooms?

No doubt it is true, as others have argued, that the Beckhams have been hoist with their own PR, and those who live by the double-edged sword of the celebrity media must expect to perish by it. But there is a bigger issue here than what we might think of Posh ’n’ Becks. As that law lord’s judgment implied, it is about us, ‘the public’, and what our concerns should be. The Beckhams are not to blame for the public appetite for private dirt, or for making gossip the stuff of national news. The top half dozen celebrity magazines in Britain now sell a combined total of around three million copies per issue. The footballer and his wife may appear on the covers, but they do not publish, buy or consume them all.

Some have claimed the publication of the nanny’s tale as a victory for press freedom. I believe in that freedom absolutely; there should not be a privacy law, and the Beckhams should not sue the News of the World for libel. However, it is coming to something when one has to defend press freedom so far from the moral high ground, on such a lowlife issue as this.

A civilised society does not behave like a sleazy voyeur, trying to peer in at other people’s private business. (Predictably, the nanny too has had her ‘sex secrets revealed’ by former friends.) The Beckhams can look after themselves. It’s the rest of us I feel sorry for.

  • I have always opposed wars of intervention on principle, from the Falklands through the first Gulf War to the Balkans and back to Iraq.

But this week I found myself forced to agree with Tony Blair, the arch-interventionist, when he said that the debate should be about whether the Iraq war ‘was right or not, rather than attacks on my conduct and integrity’. All of this infantile screeching about ‘Tony Bliar!’ is simply avoiding the issue.
Mr Blair’s opponents who are trying to hide behind the Attorney-General seem similarly disingenuous – after all, many of them were cheerleaders for his war against the Serbs, launched without the niceties of UN resolutions. As for the honest Liberal Democrats, their position at the time of the Iraq intervention sounded less like ‘No war’ than ‘No war this week, at least until we get the OK from Kofi Annan’. Yet now they seem happy to pass themselves off as the anti-war party. What’s so honest about that?

  • While we are on the subject of honest opposition, the next person who tells me that they want to ‘give Blair a bloody nose’ may be in danger of getting one.

These shadow boxers don’t want to knock Mr Blair out, you understand, just shake him up a bit before he carries on into the next round. Such feeble opposition is no more likely to stop new Labour than the lightning that bounced off Mr Blair’s campaign aircraft this week without causing so much as a nosebleed. Even Respect, the left-wing coalition standing against new Labour, is at pains to emphasise that it will do nothing to let in the Tories. For all of their grizzling, these people are still tied to Labour like naughty children who always come home when it’s time for tea.

Mick Hume is editor of spiked
This article is republished from The Times (London)

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Topics Politics

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