The incredible stupidity of clever people
“While seeking revenge, dig two graves – one for yourself.” Never has this famous saying seemed more apt. As Allison Pearson says in The Sunday Telegraph, when Vicky Pryce whispered in a journalist’s ear that her husband, Chris Huhne, had made her take speeding points in 2003, she not only began digging her own grave, she in effect threw “her whole family on to the funeral pyre in order to bring down the man she once loved”.
It’s not so hard to see why Huhne behaved badly. As Pearson says, he’s a ‘Don’t you know I have a First from Oxford?’ type, a champion of social equality “who believes everyone to be his inferior. Let’s face it, very little in the way of tact and self-knowledge is to be expected from a Liberal Democrat who has personalised number plates and once claimed £85.35 expenses for ‘the mounting, framing and inscription of a photo of Chris Huhne’.”
No, what’s mysterious is why his self-described “fiery Greek” of a wife, a clever and respected economist, turned herself into “Clapham’s answer to Clytemnestra”. How did she think she could get away with pleading ‘marital coercion’, a defence that sounds as if it comes out of Downton Abbey? It’s an insult to abused, economically dependent women who “really don’t have any choice but to do their masters’ bidding”. Talk about being hoist by your own petard.
This trial has reinforced one peculiar truth, says Janice Turner in The Times, and that is “the incredible stupidity of clever people”. You have to be pretty stupid to drive a car with a personalised number plate at full pelt blaring into your mobile phone (as Huhne did). As for Pryce – her choice of a Sunday Times journalist as a confidante reminds Turner of the way Cherie Blair “fell in with flaky crystal-botherer Carole Caplin and Peter Foster, a convicted fraudster”.
But there’s another truth this trial reminded us of, and a very important one. When Huhne announced he was leaving his wife, he flung at her the words: “Don’t talk to the newspapers.” In that, at least, he was right. I agree with Marina Hyde in The Guardian. There is one piece of advice you can offer any friend with absolute conviction. “Never talk to the newspapers. Never. Talk. To. The. Newspapers.”
Why are Liberals so unusually colourful?
Why is it, incidentally, that so many prominent Liberals behave in weird ways? MPs on all sides “attract trouble and disgrace”, says Adam Boulton in The Sunday Times. But consider the tabloid inches given to Jeremy Thorpe, Paddy Ashdown, Charles Kennedy, Mark Oaten, Lembit Opik, Mike Hancock, David Laws, Chris Huhne and Chris Rennard, “and it’s difficult not to conclude that, for one small party, Liberal Democrat men, and they are mostly men, are an unusually colourful bunch”.
Has it, Boulton wonders, something to do with the name ‘Liberal’, which “implies a broad-minded tolerance, especially when it comes to your own behaviour”? Perhaps it has.
Tabloid money… Britain is a care home for irresponsible companies
• Too many big companies seem to be having “a good laugh at this country’s expense”, says Allison Phillips in the Daily Mirror. Rolls-Royce says it paid no corporation tax last year, despite a pre-tax profit of £1.4bn.
Meanwhile, that other British institution, Butlin’s, “has been advertising jobs in Poland and Romania while telling unemployed British workers there are no vacancies at the moment”. Britain has turned into “a care home” for companies “that know all about rights yet nothing about responsibilities”.
• “Just how rich – or stupid – do you have to be to pay £3,200 for a designer bath for your baby?” asks Jane Moore in The Sun. “Step forward multi-millionairess Beyoncé and her equally minted husband Jay-Z, who have also spent £530 on designer toddler trainers for their one-year-old daughter, Blue Ivy, and £10,000 on a Swarovski crystal-studded high chair…
In 2010 Jay-Z reportedly donated $6,431 of his $63m earnings to his own charitable foundation for disadvantaged youths, and out of the $87m she earned, Beyoncé donated zilch to it. Perhaps their altruism has increased vastly since then, but either way, isn’t any charitable work diminished somewhat by such pointless and deeply vulgar displays of wealth in these globally straitened times?”
• “How much longer can Sir David Nicholson hang on?” wonders Trevor Kavanagh in The Sun. “Downing Street was wrong to support the NHS chief who was in charge when Mid-Staffs patients were needlessly dying. Now it emerges he was in command when 16 babies died, allegedly as a result of cock-ups at Morecambe Bay. This was a Labour catastrophe. Mr Cameron must pull the plug – before it turns into a Tory one.”