Scan­dal and the sad lone­li­ness of po­lit­i­cal life

Sentinel-Review (Woodstock) - - OPINION - AN­THONY FUREY afurey@post­

Sad — It’s the first word that came to mind for a lot of peo­ple I spoke with af­ter the news broke that Con­ser­va­tive MP Tony Clement had got­ten him­self in­volved in some sort of sex­ting ex­tor­tion scam.

It’s some­thing any prom­i­nent politi­cian should know bet­ter than to get wrapped up in. Then again, you can prob­a­bly say that about any per­sonal scan­dal mem­bers of the po­lit­i­cal class finds them­selves in.

On top of this, Con­ser­va­tive Leader An­drew Scheer re­moved Clement from the Con­ser­va­tive cau­cus Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon due to what has so far been de­scribed as con­cerns voiced by other women about his on­line be­hav­iour.

It’s al­most ev­ery week that we hear about a new screw-up of this va­ri­ety. Clement’s is far from the only one and cer­tainly not the worst.

As the for­mer cabi­net min­is­ter put it in a state­ment: “I have shared sex­u­ally ex­plicit im­ages and a video of my­self to some­one who I be­lieved was a con­sent­ing fe­male re­cip­i­ent. The re­cip­i­ent was, in fact, an in­di­vid­ual or party who tar­geted me for the pur­pose of fi­nan­cial ex­tor­tion.”

The RCMP is now in­ves­ti­gat­ing and re­ports say the ex­tor­tion­ist was seek­ing 50,000 eu­ros.

An added el­e­ment of con­cern is that Clement sat on an im­por­tant na­tional se­cu­rity com­mit­tee. Was he tar­geted? We’ll per­haps learn more later.

“This is some­one who I sup­ported to be prime min­is­ter!” one se­nior Con­ser­va­tive in­sider, who backed Clement for the lead­er­ship in 2004, told me in ex­as­per­a­tion Wed­nes­day morn­ing. The frus­tra­tion wasn’t rooted in what Clement had done, but in how some­one you’re sup­port­ing for PM should have the judg­ment to not do this sort of stuff.

“How lonely are you?” an­other told me, also a Clement sup­porter. But he wasn’t so much re­fer­ring to this sit­u­a­tion. It was more a state­ment about the po­lit­i­cal scene in gen­eral.

The frus­tra­tion from women was slightly dif­fer­ent. Fe­male po­lit­i­cal op­er­a­tives and staffers I spoke to see this, and other sto­ries, as part of a broader con­tin­uum — one of men who just can’t keep it to­gether and make poor choices.

This story aside, some­times it’s booze or drugs that comes along. Other times, it’s be­ing a lit­tle bit too friendly. In the worst cases, it’s preda­tory and even crim­i­nal be­hav­iour, the sort that fu­els po­lit­i­cal #MeToo sto­ries we’ve heard lately.

There’s a story about how af­ter an elec­tion, newly elected MPs were at a meet­ing in Ot­tawa and the Speaker asked ev­ery­one to raise their hands if they were mar­ried, then said half of them would be di­vorced by the end of their po­lit­i­cal ca­reer. Anec­do­tally, there ap­pears to be some truth to this.

It’s a strange job. It seems in­cred­i­bly glam­orous, at first: Your pic­ture in the pa­per all the time; Peo­ple talk­ing about you and what you’re go­ing to say and how you’re go­ing to vote.

Then when the cam­eras are gone, ques­tion pe­riod is over and com­mit­tees wrap for the day, it’s just you, trudg­ing through Ot­tawa in fall and win­ter — the worst times to be trudg­ing through Ot­tawa — brav­ing wind tun­nels en route to your one-bed­room condo or ho­tel room that you live in for a few nights a week while Par­lia­ment’s in ses­sion.

A rookie MP once told me he was ex­cited that his ho­tel would let him keep some of his things with them, and then they’d place his stuff in what­ever room he was as­signed when he came back to town next week. As if this some­how turned it into a home.

I knew one older par­lia­men­tar­ian who had a pretty strict rou­tine of go­ing back to her condo, hav­ing din­ner, watch­ing TV and go­ing to bed.

A lot don’t, though. Peo­ple head out into the night, to one of those catered in­dus­try func­tions or just a bar. A way for peo­ple to be alone to­gether.

So much noise and busy­ness one mo­ment, quiet and empty the next.

And then the poor choices get made.

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