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As others see us

EVEN with an Anglophile prejudice, reading the British press leads to this conclusion: our cross- Channel neighbours are developing - so far as sex is concerned - a 'fatal attraction' which is unknown on the Continent. Hardly a day passes without the newspapers recounting, exhaustively - and obligingly where it is a matter of the crudest detail - a tale of morals. With, of course, a predilection for a full media unveiling if the victim is a known personality, preferably a member of the Government, but without balking and with the same professionalism if the individual's notoriety does not extend beyond the limits of his home district.

For what is important is the crusty, the unheard-of and the bizarre. Anyone can be the star of the moment, provided he does better than the previous day's example in atypical sexual behaviour or perverse violence. Almost every day, Hitchcock is equalled: Frenzy, his last film, which recounts the evil deeds of a strangler-rapist, is simple, routine. Every day, the 3.7 million readers of the Sun leap to page three to discover the naked breasts of the pin-up of the day, while the 364,000 loyal readers of the Times have a page of stories with a strong sexual content.

The Britons' peculiar relations with matters of sex have important political consequences. John Major knows something of this: his government has for some time lurched from one scandal to another, while the Prime Minister himself has chosen to make 'back to basics' his priority. The result is that his policies have now lost all credibility.

Le Monde, French daily