Scandals break a politician’s reputation, mostly because the public looks up to them and becomes doubtful of the politician’s credibility, once they’re publicly humiliated and exposed. Hence, these individuals need to conduct themselves in a way that suits them best.
It is also certain that scandals often affect a politician’s reputation more than anything and usually damage hard earned reputation for good. This happens mostly because a nation, which constitutes of the common man, tends to look up at these public figures. While it is certainly true that every individual has a right to a personal life, it cannot be denied that public figures, especially those who are the custodians of the law, need to be watchful of the impact that portrays their actions within a society. Crimes, when carried out by an average individual of the society, are frowned upon vehemently, but the distaste increases ten folds when the criminals are politicians or agents of the law enforcement agencies. Sex scandals, in particular, have a negative connotation attached to them as people do not wish to see their chosen leaders in a light that is anything, but appropriate.
Another issue that scandals, which can be of any kind, usually have an adverse effect on a politician’s life and career. Francis Fox is a former member of the Senate of Canada. He served as a Canadian Cabinet minister and Principal Secretary in the Prime Minister's Office. During Prime Minister Paul Martin’s regime, he served as a senior aide to him. In the 1980’s, he also worked as a lobbyist. Fox started his career as a lawyer and was elected to the House of Commons in 1972. Achieving success so early on in life, Cabinet Minister Fox was well appreciated by the public and admired by his peers. There were even possibilities of him being a potential party leader later on. However, his rising career was shortly plagued by a sex scandal of which he was found guilty. This crisis eventually put an end to his career. (Press) Whenever a scandal involves a political figure, especially the one where a moral dilemma is present, the politician is bound to suffer the brunt of the public distaste as politicians are expected to have a good character if they claim to represent and lead the public of their country.
On 27th January, Fox was forced to resign because of a scandal that involved forgery of crucial signatures on certain hospital documents. Mr. Fox was involved with a woman romantically, which led to her pregnancy. To terminate the pregnancy, both the involved parties decided to opt for abortion (Press). However, the abortion form was required to be signed by his girlfriend’s husband and it was Fox that forged the signatures. Even though there might be many who argue that Fox had never participated in any unlawful activity prior to this incident and was just trying to help a woman carry out her choice, it cannot be denied; his actions were wrong. The public was infuriated not for one but two reasons.
As mentioned above, sex scandals damage a politician’s reputation permanently and mostly because adultery is not appreciated within sophisticated circles. Cabinet Minister Fox, at the time of this incident, was married to Joan Pennefather that rightfully made him adulterous in the eyes of the common public. Fox was found guilty of having an illicit relationship with a woman who was not his wife and that, for the public, was the first crime. It might not be an illegal act, yet it was one that was not socially legal for the nation. Those who viewed him as the man capable of being a party leader now doubted his character and ability to make admirable decisions. After all, that is what the public fears; if a politician cannot make reasonable decisions about his own personal life, how can he be trusted with the governance of the nation? This is a question that everyone, who watches the news of a politician’s sex scandal on TV, asks himself. This was the first reason that led to the demise of Fox as a politician. He became unpopular not only among the political, but also social circles that were situated within Canada.
The second crime which Fox committed was however a more substantially damaging act. He forged a signature in order to deal with a problem that he had created himself. This, in the eyes of the public, worsened his crime. A politician, especially one that is so centrally placed in law enforcement, is a figure, which the public looks up to, for the prevalence of justice and law. When such a figure manipulates the law or uses an unlawful means to get rid of a problem he/she creates, they rightfully become worthy of social and lawful punishment. The act of forging the signature of a man, to the public, meant that he thought himself to be above accountability and hence, they demanded justified punishment immediately.
Now that Fox’s two crimes have been discussed in detail, they need to be analyzed in context to one another. Some might argue that Fox confessing to the crimes was an honorable act, but it cannot be denied that his actions were still not legal. The public might not be fit to pass judgment on this matter yet their opinion or their judgment cannot be considered rash, mainly because Fox is a public figure and one who was supposed to be a custodian of law. Neither of his crimes could have gone unaccounted for this reason.
The public trusts the law-makers of the State to write laws that might benefit the nation. However, when the public watches lawmakers make mistakes that publicly damage their reputation, they doubt the inefficiency of not just that certain individual but also the whole institution. Another perspective that comes across in this case is that the forgery of the signature may not be considered such a big issue, but the fact that it went unnoticed was certainly a grave one. This made the public doubtful of how much trust they could put in the law enforcement agencies. Fox’s resignation, at this point, came across as a satisfying punishment to the public. Mostly because this meant that he was held accountable for his “crimes”. It restored the public’s faith in justice as they saw an undeserving official step down from the post they did not deem him worthy of. Such punishment was not suitable for only one of his committed crimes, but both committed crimes, and the public was pleased that his actions did not go unaccounted for (Apostolidis and Williams).
If we take a look at some other scandals which involved politicians, we can better understand the psyche of the public with context to this case. In 1961, John Profumo, the British Secretary of State for War during the Harold Macmillan government, was found guilty of having an affair with a 19-year-old would-be model, Christine Keeler and the affair was said to be a short one. However, its discovery was a serious threat to National Security as Keeler was involved with a Soviet naval attaché known as Captain Yevgeny Ivanov. Due to this reason, there was a definite possibility of classified information being leaked, and all involved parties were scrutinized heavily. After thorough investigation into the matter, it was apparent that Profumo was a loyal man who had not divulged any classified information, but his reputation was tainted for years to come (Evans).
In this case, just like Fox’s, it did not take much time for the public to become doubtful about Profumo’s ability to hold his position. The fact that he was found not guilty of treason did not hold much importance because his credibility had been affected adversely. While it was “just” a sex scandal, the involvement of National Security was what aggravated the British populace. Just like Fox’s case, the involved party was thought guilty of a crime, and that was enough to cast aspersions on their ability to lead.
Fox’s career saw a serious decline from the point of his resignation, mostly because of his wrecked reputation. It is common knowledge that once your credibility is damaged, no one is willing to hire you. This increases to a larger extent when you’re in politics as political circles take accountability issues very seriously. Another example from British politics, which can be analyzed, is Jeremy Thorpe’s (a member of the Parliament) involvement with Norman Scott. Scott claimed to have been Thorpe’s homosexual partner and claimed that Thorpe conspired to have him murdered. Homosexuality at that time was illegal in Britain; this fact, combined with the conspiracy of murder, destroyed Thorpe’s reputation even though he was acquitted of these charges.
What is common in these cases, and Fox’s case, is that they all had these scandals affect their careers adversely. This was mostly because they were highlighted on a very large scale, and the destruction caused by these scandals was too much to control. Fox, after the scandal became public, did return to politics in 1980 but in 1984, when the Turner government lost, he had to move to the private sector. He briefly did become part of Paul Martin’s cabinet in 2003 but left in 2004 due to personal reasons (Press). If we look at Fox’s career, it is quite apparent that his prospective future was marred by the after effects of the scandal. The other two cases that have been discussed are similar too. The involved parties were held liable for their actions and the scandal preceded their reputation for the rest of their lives. In Profumo’s case, the scandal did not only affect him but everyone who was related to Profumo. Harold Macmillan, the Prime Minister of Britain at that time was badly shaken due to the scandal and resigned.
Fox, a man who was poised to have a bright future, in a matter of seconds was reduced to shame and shunned without the support of the people. Many might say that Fox’s crime was not as notorious as his punishment but as always, the public views this with a different perspective. It cannot be denied that the public wishes to not only have a strong judicial system but wishes to be a part of it as well. When they put their faith in an individual to lead them, they are not only giving their vote of confidence but are contributing to the judicial system. They feel that they are playing a part in the nation’s better progress, and when they see a beloved individual commit a crime, they immediately begin to question not only his/her ability but also their own (Miller).
Fox did not only hurt the public’s feelings by committing adultery, but by forging the signatures, for a brief period, he thought he would be safe from accountability. This was what made him a bigger villain in the public’s eye than the affair. The House of Commons, who placed faith in him, was saddened mostly due to this particular reason. All members, pride themselves on being the custodians of the truth and a member’s involvement in such a crime took them by surprise as he violated the basic foundations of what they all truly stood for in their political careers.
Apostolidis, Paul, and Juliet Williams. Public Affairs. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2004. Print.
Evans, Natalie. 'The Profumo Affair: 50 Years On From Britain's Most Sensational Sex And Security Scandal'. Mirror 2013. Web. 26 Oct. 2014.
Gaster, Robin. 'Sex, Spies And Scandal: The Profumo Affair And British Politics'. The Politics of Scandal (1988): 62-88. Print.
Miller, Ruth Austin. The Erotics Of Corruption. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 2008. Print.
Press, Canadian. 'Francis Fox, Citing Family Reasons, Quits His Senate Post Early'. The Globe and Mail 2011. Web. 25 Oct. 2014.
The Tuscaloosa News,. 'Canadian Official Resigns'. 1978. Web. 25 Oct. 2014.
Weeks, Jeffrey. Sex, Politics And Society. Harlow: Longman, 2012. Print.