Comment

Don't sleep with these people if you're a politician

Liberal MP, Jamie Briggs, is the latest politician to come a cropper over a sex scandal, but he wasn't the first, and certainly won't be the last.

The fact is the political arena is a more pheromone-ridden environment than a school formal full of spotty teenagers.

Former US president Bill Clinton is on a long list of politicians whose careers have been marred by sex scandals.
Former US president Bill Clinton is on a long list of politicians whose careers have been marred by sex scandals. Photo: Graham Denholm

The difference is that Parliament House doesn't have any chaperones, and most of its inhabitants have long been drinking the Kool-Aid of power.

In fact, it would surprise most readers how many potential sex scandals never make the light of day. When I was in Parliament you could have written not just a book, but a trilogy of books, about who is sleeping with whom.

For all that, there is some considerable evidence that Australian politicos are blushing violets compared to the French, or even our English cousins. After all, the Brits have given us a party leader who was convicted of conspiring to murder his gay lover, a defence minister who slept with a prostitute who was also consorting with a Russian spy, and everything in between.

There was even a junior minister who was found dead wearing only stockings and suspenders, with his hands tied behind his back and an orange stuffed in his mouth.

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In my seven or so years as a single parliamentarian, I thought it was just plain stupid to do some of the things I saw my colleagues do.

For the benefit of the current crop of political Casanovas, let me outline some simple rules that always made good sense to me.

First, don't sleep with your colleagues. This should sound like common sense, because it is never going to have a good future. And anyway, most of them aren't that good looking. Yet the list who ignored this rule is both long and distinguished.

Secondly, don't sleep with your staff. If nothing else, it seems like a sure track to a sexual harassment claim when it all goes wrong, and at best it promises a decidedly uncomfortable office environment.

Thirdly, don't sleep with your colleagues' staff. If you need an explanation, see above. Parliamentary staffers also gossip incessantly, and your most intimate foibles are sure to be public knowledge by lunch the next day.

Fourthly, don't sleep with the press gallery. Now this too should be common sense. The only people who gossip more than parliamentary staffers are journalists, who write about it as well. Moreover, the press gallery are also busy sleeping with each other, so you'll make many more enemies than you can possibly know.

Finally, don't sleep with the Canberra public service. This is perhaps the most dangerous mistake of all, because what happens outside the parliamentary circle is not covered by the vague rule about see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.

Now lest that makes me sound like a prude, let me point out there are millions of single Australians who fall outside those fairly narrow categories. I have seen even the most unattractive parliamentary colleagues pursued by glamorous members of the opposite sex.

All political survival requires is a modicum of discretion and common sense.

In the rarified air that wafts through Canberra, however, common sense is frequently suspended, to the detriment of all concerned.

Like many a politician before him, Mr Briggs is discovering the truth of what Virgil once wrote: "The gates of hell are open night and day; smooth the descent, and easy is the way. But to return, and view the cheerful skies, in this the task and mighty labour lies."

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