IF YOU are anything like me (and if you are, you have my sympathies), the chances are you spent at least a small portion of your Bank Holiday Monday glued to the BBC Parliament channel, avidly watching the real-time rerun of the 1992 general election.
While this sounds like the sort of overly-committed behaviour of a political anorak even Gore-Tex would reject, it was, in fact, captivating television.
From late and great faces of the past (Jill Dando, Robin Cook and John Smith among them) to a super-slim Alex Salmond, a moustachioed Peter Mandelson and a flabbergasted Francis Maude (who lost his seat), it was a history lesson and an exercise in nostalgia all rolled into one.
Perhaps one of the most fascinating creatures to lumber on to the screen was the late Alan Clark – the flamboyant MP and diarist who died of a brain tumour in 1999. Clark was, back then, an anomoly. While it is only in recent times that we have become aware of other scandals of the age, such as John Major’s overly-icky affair with Edwina Currie, it was less than a year on from the 1992 election that Clark published his first diary, causing huge embarrassment in the higher echelons of the Tory party for his candid descriptions of grandees, such as Ken Clarke, Douglas Hurd and Michael Heseltine, not to mention his own nocturnal activities.
Part of the reason the diaries were so shocking was because you just didn’t do that sort of thing back then. Confessional writing, particularly for those in the public eye, just wasn’t cricket. Yet fast forward 20 years, and our bestseller lists are clogged up with books by the famous and the not-so-famous, desperate to tell us about every last cough, spit and Facebook status update of their own trauma, affair, diet, relationship break-up or tragically dying hamster.
From Jordan to Cheryl, Wayne Rooney to, er, Coleen Rooney, everyone worth their salt in the celebrity world has a book to their name that they were paid an enormous amount to (often ghost) write. Then there is another breed – those who are in the public eye because of a scandal, a crime or an affair – who are offered large sums of money to tell their stories, filling in the gaps left by the tabloid coverage.
So perhaps it is not surprising that Amanda Knox, who was cleared last October of the murder of fellow student Meredith Kercher, was offered a rumoured $2.5 million to tell the story of her imprisonment in Italy and her subsequent release. It is not even surprising that Raffaele Sollecito, also acquitted, has a rumoured book deal in the works.
What is eyebrow-raising however, is that John Kercher, Meredith’s father, has brought out his own book, six months before Knox’s is published.
Writing, of course, can be incredibly therapeutic, although the inveitable round of publicity that will follow, as well as the pressure to give interviews and talk about the devastating loss Kercher and his family have suffered over and over again, will, one imagines, take an emotional toll.
What is tragic, however, is that Kercher, a writer and a journalist, felt he needed to bring this book out at all. That it is being published a good six months ahead of Knox’s suggests he is desperate to take control of the story, to put across his and his family’s side and remind the world of his beautiful daughter.
One wonders, though, if he would have published the book had Knox decided against publishing hers. Kercher must know that when Knox’s book is released, it will be in a blaze of publicity that will once more ignite the story from all angles. The phone will once more ring with requests for comment. His daughter’s face will once more be on the front pages, and the whole hideous circus will once more crank into life.
One wonders if Knox considered any of this before making the decision to tell her story. Surely, after an experience such as hers, the wise thing to do would have been to slope off into the distance, lick her wounds, and disappear, if only out of respect for the Kerchers.
Instead, she has chosen to make the fast buck and ensure that nobody forgets her name in a hurry.
Tragically for the Kerchers, Knox’s desire to stay in the public eye means they have been unwillingly dragged back into it too. Knox should be thoroughly ashamed of herself.