Comment: Tony and Bill find growing up is hard to do

"COMPLETELY useless and pathetic" was Tony Blair's response when William Hague asked a series of questions he did not want to answer during Prime Minister's Question Time on Wednesday. "He is Leader of the Opposition and today we have seen why he will stay so," Mr Blair taunted, demanding to know why Mr Hague had not asked about important issues such as health, education and crime. The obvious riposte is that, with more than four years of the present Parliament to run, Mr Hague has plenty of time to raise all the big issues.

At the moment, especially after Robin Cook's splenetic attack on his former diary secretary, Anne Bullen, it is perfectly legitimate for Mr Hague to query the Foreign Secretary's judgement. It is not Mr Hague's fault that Mr Cook is currently the target of questions about the way he has chosen to conduct his private life, or his foolish decision to consider replacing Ms Bullen with his lover, Gaynor Regan. Nor is it improper for Mr Blair, who appointed Mr Cook, to be called to account on these matters. But his reaction recalled previous outbursts of bad temper by the Prime Minister - on Wednesday, Mr Hague called him "tetchy" - since the autumn.

Mr Blair's demeanour when people challenge him is pained and disbelieving. If the questioning persists, his manner soon shades into irritation. At his best, the Prime Minister has the kind of youthful, energetic charm that wins people over. When he is crossed, the charm switches off and his tone rises to a whine. He speaks faster and his accent - pure English public schoolboy - becomes more pronounced. The sunny, outgoing side of his character appears to be directly connected to the presence of an admiring audience.

When Mr Hague annoyed him this week, he responded like a sulky teenager who doesn't see why he should explain to his parents why he got in at four in the morning. This is ironic, given that Mr Hague is younger than Mr Blair. It is also puzzling behaviour from a Prime Minister who is not just a career politician but a barrister by training.

By Thursday afternoon, when Mr Blair went to the Commons to announce an inquiry into Bloody Sunday, his good temper was restored. His performance was statesmanlike, but, then, the only serious opposition came from the Ulster Unionists. This sequence of events raises a question I have been pondering since the general election: is Mr Blair grown-up? It is easy enough to be charming, or at least polite, when things are going well. The real test comes when a politician is under fire, as we were reminded by President Clinton's consummate State of the Union address this week.

On present form, Mr Blair is showing a worrying tendency to conduct himself like an adolescent. He likes being top of the class, but he is not mature enough to appreciate that being Head Boy carries responsibilities as well as privileges. His range of responses extends from an appeal along the lines of trust-me-I'm-a-prime-minister to schoolboy name-calling. Perhaps that is why he got on so well with the late Princess of Wales, who did so much of her growing up in public.

WHEN I mentioned these thoughts to a friend, who happens to be a psychoanalyst, he agreed - and added that he would rather be governed by Mr Clinton, whom he described as "a grown-up with infantile sexuality".

I'm not sure he is right about the last bit, in that sexual fidelity seems to be an impossible goal for so many adults. Does that mean they have all failed to grow up?

It strikes me that the difficulties we have been witnessing, on both sides of the Atlantic, stem not so much from the sexual appetites of individual men - or women who have a choice whether to have sexual relationships with married men like the President or the Foreign Secretary. The problem is much more to do with a confusion about marriage, which both men appear to support while behaving in ways which contradict its central contract of sexual fidelity.

I don't know whether this is because they truly believe in marriage, or whether there is still a perception that politicians have to subscribe to the mores of a previous generation. I would be far happier with a climate in which powerful men like Mr Clinton admit the truth about their sexual proclivities and spare us the awful spectacle of their wives fantasising on television about right-wing conspiracies. Perhaps Mrs Clinton really believes what she said, but to me it looks like denial on a grand scale. It would be far better if Mr Clinton admitted he has a non-monogamous arrangement with his wife, if that is indeed the case, than to continue with this cycle of accusations, denials and eventual admissions. (Of course Gennifer Flowers was telling the truth about her affair with Mr Clinton. Who ever believed otherwise?)

But that would require him to behave like a grown-up. Perhaps my friend was right, after all.

IN THE middle of all these allegations about sex and sleaze, I went to see Boogie Nights, the movie about the rise and fall of an American porn star. It has had ecstatic reviews, so I was startled to discover just how dull it is, so much so that the friend who went with me spent much of the film asleep. The direction is plodding, the characters rebarbative and it has a puzzlingly irrelevant soundtrack. (The Beach Boys? For a film set in the late Seventies and early Eighties?)

So, why did the critics think otherwise? There is an element of striptease, in that it isn't until the last few frames that Mark Wahlberg, playing blue movie star Dirk Diggler, hooks out of his trousers the 13in prosthesis which all the other characters are supposedly excited about. But for adults who have seen a penis before, indeed a variety of them, this is hardly a satisfactory explanation.

The film's success can, I think, be accounted for much more simply. If you say you've made a serious film about porn, it gives audiences permission to turn up at the kind of "adult" movie they would usually be too embarrassed to attend.

I'd rather watch footage of President Clinton, whose enthusiastic sexual appetite surely merits a fascinating documentary. Set in the White House, starring the President, who could bear to miss Boogie Days?

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
News
peopleComedian launches stinging attack on PM
Life and Style
The collection displayed Versace’s softer side, with models wearing flowers and chiffon dresses in unusual colourings
fashionVersace haute couture review
News
Andy Murray shakes hands after defeating Andreas Seppi of Italy in the third round of Wimbledon, Saturday 4 July, 2015
Wimbledon
Arts and Entertainment
'The Leaf'
artYes, it's a leaf, but a potentially very expensive one
News
Yoko Ono at the Royal Festival Hall for Double Fantasy Live
people'I wont let him destroy memory of John Lennon or The Beatles'
News
Could Greece leave the EU?
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Home Care / Support Workers

    £7 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care provider is looking for Home ...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Team Leader

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

    Recruitment Genius: Client Manager

    £27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...

    Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

    £16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

    Day In a Page

    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'