What is worse? Chris Whitty’s mobbing or the harassment of a “betrayed woman”? | Catherine bennett

Iin his memories of 2010, Smile though your heart is breaking, Pauline Prescott gives a keen account evening, her husband ran home to tell her about his two-year affair. “It will be all over the papers tomorrow,” he told her. “‘Who?’ I asked. I had a stomach ache. “Tracey,” he replied, his voice broken. “Tracey, in my office.”

If political sex scandals were losing – even before Boris Johnson eradicated them – their essential late-career potential, becoming fatal mainly due to the disbeliever’s hypocrisy and corruption, the domestic fallout seems, compared to accounts of previous survivors, still unfold. historical lines.

The Minister is pictured, warned by a newspaper, and he has a few golden hours left in which, before the fuck story comes out, to tell the person formerly known as his precious helper that things weren’t exactly what they seemed. Vicky Pryce, Chris Huhne’s ex-wife and mother of their three children, described the efficiency with which, at half-time of the football match she was watching, the then energy minister informed her that his services in his electoral leaflets (“family matters so much to me” ) were no longer needed. Stopping to write down his statement – “I’m in a serious relationship with Carina Trimingham and I’m separating from my wife” – he walked over to the gym.

Margaret Cook, hurriedly thrown into a departure lounge at Heathrow, asked Robin Cook: “What would you do if I went into a deep depression and killed myself?” He paused, calm and distant, as if asking a question on a public platform. “I should, of course, be sorry…” “. To be remembered later in a memoir, along with other derogatory details, she was called guilty ruthless.

But even Cook, she said, organized some protection. On the street, Martha Hancock did not look like a very protected person on the morning of her forced transformation into a public figure, especially an official victim: the object of fascinated pity and rampant public speculation – even by people who don’t, as a rule, think they’re going for this sort of thing. Contributors opposed to Hancock at Mumsnet could be found last week trying to get hold of his wife’s outfits, admiring the excellent Sun glasses, her hair and dress smelled of her shitty demeanor too, as a bonus, offered for further analysis. Didn’t she, some thought, look just too pretty, seen? “She knows exactly what she is doing.

In 2006, John Prescott, too, seems to have redeemed himself a bit by attempting – even if not convincing – to spare Pauline her conscription as a national tragic turn. “’You have to pack some things,’ he told me. “We will go to Dorneywood. The media will be on their way. All hell is going to break loose. “

Just as was the case when Ms Hancock, her husband having become the latest idiot to fail the political marshmallow test, became the available public face of her scandal. First the photographs, then the kind of gooey comment – “Dear Martha”, “writes a rejected woman,” “it is advisable to seek professional help” – which passes off the intrusion as emotional intelligence. Hancock, though untraceable, was already rumored to be intentional, with her “serious” replacement relationship, on an early revival, while Ms Hancock was still, with cameras scrupulously chronicling their own effect, acting as proxy target.

And Oliver Tress, the husband of Gina Coladangelo, collateral damage companion? Was he still wearing his wedding ring too? Devastated / bravely combed / allegedly balanced – and clearly seeking advice? The therapists were surely keen to remind him, as they did Mrs. Hancock, not to weigh down the children, to blame himself, to drown out his sorrows and, in the nicest way possible, to start “a new relationship.” anytime soon”. But – it’s unclear whether he was seen as less captivatingly broken or simply more difficult to harass legally or physically – Tress was barely photographed and similarly considered ineligible for remote media advice. These expressions of interest are all of Ms. Hancock.

Johnson may have then severed the once fruitful link between personal betrayal (even at his own pathological level) and political ignominy, but last week’s lawsuit suggests that the gang criminal harassment of female associates – that is – that is, women who do not have the alternative narrative opportunities of, say, a Sarah Vine – at least provides some measure of very traditional compensatory sport. Assuming the husband runs away, the wife, regardless of any formal public interest, can still be legitimately watched over the next few days for signs of humiliation, real or imagined, and then later, perhaps indefinitely, for. evidence of vindictive and unnecessary attempts – long after the man has ceased to be questioned about his case (s) – at self-liberation. Most recently, by advertising his book, Marina wheeler still had to insist that Boris Johnson was not his defining characteristic.

The arrival, after Leveson, of the Independent Press Standards Organization code of conduct (see, regarding Hancock, clauses 2, 3 and 6) has been reliable enough to protect family members who do not contribute to a politician’s disgrace from the kind of harassment that is now piously disparaged in the case of Diana, Princess of Wales; that if it were to be inflicted on, say, an official respected by, say, a bunch of drunk real estate agents, would instantly be exposed. Chris Whitty’s street assault, following an earlier assault near his home, sparked justifiable outrage: “Dastardly harassment… bullying on our streets” (Boris Johnson); “Appalling and totally unacceptable” (Sajid Javid). “These thugs must be found and charged,” Nadim Zahawi said. “Zero tolerance for harassing an official. The silver lining: No one describes the monstrous Mr. Whitty as “humiliated.”

As for the “thugs”, they would have been annoyed by the fact that their good humor had not been welcome. “If I did [Prof Whitty] I feel uncomfortable, which seems to be the case, so I’m sorry for that, ”one said. Not much, but far nicer than anything Martha Hancock is likely to hear about the treatment her husband – had he ever attempted self-regulation – could have easily predicted from her party’s media allies.

Catherine Bennett is a columnist for the Observer

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