Public V Private Life

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Even before his assassination 50 years ago this week, John F Kennedy was an iconic figure for many - his administration a "Camelot" for a shining new age. Public opinion polls show that the American people consistently rate Kennedy as one of the greatest leaders in US history. The reality of the man was much darker. In private, he was a drug-taking philanderer with links to the Mafia. But that's exactly how his personal life remained - private. Loyal staff, collusion of the press and no question of leaking the detailed FBI reports on his indiscretions meant the presidential image remained untouched. The contrast with public life today couldn't be more striking. Now we believe that there should be no separation of the public and the private and we have a right to know even the most intimate details of the private lives of politicians and those in positions of trust so that in the "public interest" we can pass judgment on their character. Others argue, they can and should be separated and that our prurience has damaged civil society. Should we always expect our leaders to moral exemplars and free from stain? Or are we all guilty of mass hypocrisy? Demanding moral standards in our leaders that we'd never apply in our own lives, or the lives of our friends? Should we welcome the shining spotlight of transparency as raising the moral standards in public life, or has it made us a much less forgiving and understanding society?

Combative, provocative and engaging debate chaired by Michael Buerk. With Michael Portillo, Melanie Phillips, Claire Fox and Kenan Malik.