I read once that a newly elected MP once asked the advice of a very highly respected backbencher whether it would be wise for him to take a particular course of action. The response was that he, the senior backbencher, was not prepared to give advise on particular issues, but a good principle to follow would be to ask yourself whether you would be happy if your action was reported in large headlines in next Sunday's News of the World.
The News of the World has gone, but the principle still applies; Unfortunately too many people in public life seem to have forgotten it.
This is the problem with public life today; people in power seem to have forgotten that it is not what you do that matters, but what the public perceives that you might have done. Too many seem to have forgotten that once you enter public life that you need to exercise great discretion in everything you do. Long time friends might have to be discretely avoided because their interests and yours might conflict; if they are real friends they will fully understand the situation, and indeed should feel the same need for discretion. I think it was Norman Tebbit who said that people in public life no longer seem to consider the "what ifs". To me this failure means that these people are either terribly naive, or simply don't live in the real world - either way they are unfit for high offices of state.
They need to remember that in these days of instant communications such as twitter, mountains can be rapidly made out of molehills and news of any indiscretion can be spread literally at the speed of light!
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