Why is it that the reputation of politicians can dramatically improve when they leave office?
Perhaps the best example is Michael Portillo who has successfully re-invented himself as an incisive and honest TV commentator. Previously, it’s fair to say that he was one of the most hated politicians in the country.
The same appears to be true of the former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith. Her stern-faced and dictatorial image did nothing to help her when she was engulfed by the Westminster expenses scandal which led to her resignation and defeat at the General Election.
Pocketing £116,000 by flipping her main residence to her sister’s house in London from her family home near Birmingham, where her husband claimed for two adult movies on her expenses, led to a voters’ revolt.
But when I interviewed her for 30 minutes for a BBC Radio Scotland series, she was clearly a changed person.
Fluid, frank, funny at times, she had no difficult answering the awkward questions and coming across with humility and honesty. What did she say to her husband when he dropped her in it? You’ll have to listen to Out of the Hot Seat which starts next Tuesday at 11:30pm
A woman changed by circumstances? Perhaps. Or is it, without the constraints of the media manipulation machine, politicians can become real people again.
John McGurk was managing editor of the Telegraph Media Group in London. Previously, he was editor of The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and the Edinburgh Evening News between 1995 and 2006. Today he is a media consultant, adviser to Indigo and a freelance broadcaster.