Edwina Currie: Why powerful men cheatThe former Conservative minister, who had an affair with British premier John Major, says authority can make the greyest men attractive
Former New York governor Eliot Spitzer's resignation speech was a mix of hubris and denial: "I have begun to atone for my private failings with my wife, Silda, my children and my entire family... As human beings our greatest glory consists not in never failing, but in rising every time we fall."
The sheer misery on Mrs Spitzer's face screamed her opinion of her husband's $5,000-an-hour dalliance with a high-class tart. She gave up her legal career to help him. His trio of teenage daughters probably gave him a rollicking; at least, I hope so. Then, within hours of being sworn in this week as Spitzer's successor, David Paterson admitted that he too had cheated on his wife. At least this time she knew about it before the papers got hold of the story. And, got her own back by cheating on him.
It all brings back my memories of John Major's 'back to basics' and family values campaign, which resulted in the resignation of 11 Conservative ministers in three months in 1993-94. I need say only that the prime minister should have reflected on human frailty before he announced that policy, not least because he was an expert on it.
What is it with these men? When they're married to beautiful, intelligent women, why do they bother? Because they can, that's why. The aura of power makes the plainest men attractive; it turned Spitzer's jug ears, Mekon brow and Desperate Dan jaw into something gorgeous.
A journalist described Spitzer arriving at a celebrity party: "He had that look of superiority about him which comes with being born rich, good-looking and destined for power. They think they can get away with anything."
If the man looks destined for greatness then the girls will hover, like hummingbirds. Most women's take on this is: he deserves to get caught. "My wife doesn't understand me" is the oldest excuse in the world; the trouble is that she understands him all too well.
Retribution is particularly damning when the miscreant has preached on a self-righteous platform. No-one has much time for a fallen hypocrite. My husband's view is different. Public figures are turned into hypocrites, he argues, by society's double standards. These are alpha males, sexually active, who think of sex all the time. Yet we voters want them to be pure as the driven snow, so that's how they are obliged to appear. Anyway, for every man who's at it, there's a woman at it, too, so let's not be too censorious.
Hubby also hints that it's often the wives' fault in that they may not be around when needed. Does that give a married man, who wants to stay married, the right to roam? I don't think so.
On the other hand, the successful male wants adulation from everyone, starting with his spouse. He wants her to share his triumphs. The British House of Commons, like Congress (as Bill Clinton showed), is full of keen young female interns. No one needs to pay for sex. It's stalking the corridors of power.
A radio journalist once told me that her husband had been selected as a parliamentary candidate, but some way from home. "Go with him," I said. "You are a wife; act like one. Successful men do not want equal partners or distant relationships; they want, and will have, adoring, supportive lovers on the spot. Forget equality; if you're not there when he needs you, it will end in tears."
If you choose to marry and share the glory, then you should share the bed. If you don't, someone else will. In that sense, I have some fellow-feeling for the randiest of politicians. They can't always help it, poor darlings.