Julie Burchill: The trouble with politicians is the older they get, the more they act like teenagers

If politics is showbusiness for ugly people, these beauties feel entitled to go the whole hog when it comes to regressing
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The Independent Online

Well, THAT didn't take long, did it? The name-calling. One minute you're drinking election night champagne out of your triumphant leader's ballet slipper – the next you're calling him a gay cowboy! And then, to make things even more excruciatingly teenage, you claim someone else did it; "Miss, miss, it wasn't me, miss – it was Lord Ashcroft!"

What is it about politicians that makes them act like they've never grown up? I think it's because, contrarily, they grow up earlier than the rest of us; when we were hanging out with cider in a graveyard, they were yomping on the stump or taking minutes in draughty meetings. They put their heads down and trudge on drudgingly for a decade or two and then – WHAM! – they finally get elected and it's like all their Christmases have come at once.

And with the cushy foreign jollies, cheap booze and copious expenses comes space to contemplate. With time on their hands during the long summer recess, they come over all Michael Jackson. My tender, trembling adolescence... gone, like dust with the wind! They start to see the electorate the way that poor mad MJ saw his audience; as a cruel taskmaster who squeezes all the sweetness from their lives. The fact that they are being handsomely rewarded for their efforts, and that they could give it up and do something else at any point, somehow evades them.

Then the sheer unfairness of the whole shebang drives them to take desperate measures in order to feel whole again. Some get so legless that they make monkeys of themselves during debates. Some (most?) in crazed attempts to fill the teenage-shaped hole, go on a mad King-of-Pop-sized spending spree – duck houses, Hula Hoops, you name it. And, of course, they expect the Bank of Mum and Dad (us) to pick up the tab. Having spoken like proper adults about clauses and means of production when the rest of us were effing and blinding behind the bike sheds, they now revert to the language of the stroppy teenager. After only FIVE WEEKS of being elected to Parliament, the MP Caroline Nokes sexted her young boyfriend that she was "bored to death". Sir Anthony Steen's retort that his critics were "jealous" of his very large house was breathtakingly babyish, while John Prescott was one of the biggest teen manques of them all, running wild, breaking toilet seats and then claiming to be anorexic when he was rumbled.

Tony Blair famously wanted to be a rock star, the eternal dream of the teenage boy; Alan Johnson has gone one better in making a fool of himself by making a radio programme called Alan Johnson: Failed Rock Star. (I bet they didn't put THAT on his election manifesto.) And anyone who has been a teenage girl will have winced at the recent Mandelson revelations; Mean Girls as imagined by Machiavelli.

A more upfront take on the permanent adolescence of politicians can be seen in the way many entertainers, when bang to rights for some chemical, sexual or violent misdemeanour, will blame it on their inner child. If politics is showbusiness for ugly people, then these beauties feel entitled to go the whole shameless hog when it comes to regressing.

For example, I usually love Lindsay Lohan – her wildness, sexual flexibility and capacity for enjoyment recall an earlier Hollywood; when, despite what seat-sniffers wish to believe about the alleged classiness of the stars, most of the players were off their cake 24/7 on drugs and drink, and going at it like knives with whoever crossed their path or cleaned their pool down at the Garden of Allah.

So I was disappointed to see she has had an "innocent little girl" tattooed on her arm. It's one of the great ickinesses of modern life the way even the most worldly, hedonistic and downright dirty amongst us insist on seeing ourselves as just a scared little girl/boy at heart. "I'm really just a kid!" they say while they snort drugs and deceive spouses. "I was never properly parented! Now I need to learn to love myself!" There are numerous pop songs which cater to this embarrassing infant-school of thought, from Kate Bush's "The Man With The Child In His Eyes" to Fergie's "Big Girls Don't Cry". And the other Fergie is the most blatant blarer of these alibis – the Duchess of York, who sees herself inhabiting the moral high ground somewhere between showbiz and politics and who exhibits the worst of both dream worlds.

Rubbish. People do scuzzy things because they feel good – not because the poor oofums saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus at an impressionable age. I may have a childish voice and an embarrassingly adolescent habit of getting wrecked whenever the opportunity arises, but every thing I do, I hold my hand up to. And personally, if I ever accidentally find my inner child, I'm going to make damn sure I do an inner runner, ASAP.

BP crisis: Hayward was always way out of his depth

In an interesting aside to this syndrome, it's funny how the bad behaviour of the World's Wickedest Oilman turned out to be nothing like the fictional antics of JR Ewing or indeed his Hollywood antecedents in Douglas Sirk's legendary film Written On The Wind.

Instead, Tony Hayward has acted like a grounded teenager who got caught letting the bath flood the family home while he looked at porn on the internet. After describing the spill as "tiny" and predicting the extent of the damage done as "very, very modest", he notoriously visited the devastated Gulf Coast and told reporters who asked what he would like to say to the wretched local people: "The first thing to say is I'm sorry. There's no one who wants this over more than I do. I would like my life back." It really could be John Prescott talking about being caught with his trousers down – or Adrian Mole.

I've been under the impression that for years the big companies have run all sorts of sophisticated psychological tests on their employees to see if they're made of the right stuff. They're obviously asking the wrong questions to end up with a sulky, self-pitying horror like Hayward. Hopefully that multi-million pay-off will buy him all the train sets he can handle and prevent him from ever attempting to play with the grown-ups again.

Fashion tips: Why can't ministers steer clear of celebrity?

At the risk of appearing uncharacteristically cohesive and consistent in this week's column, can I just find fault with the maturity of the Equality Minister Lynne Featherstone? In a bid to stem the tide of self-starvers and voluntary up-chuckers among us – anorexics and bulimics, if you're boring – she has recommended that young women should aspire to the sensational hourglass curves of the Mad Men actress Christina Hendricks rather than aim to resemble the titless wonders to be found in fashion magazines.

TMI! I SOOO don't want to know what politicians find sexy. It's like catching your parents doing it! And can't the half-witted bint see that she is merely substituting one hopeless – for most women – physical ideal for another? Might I suggest that all ministers should in future aspire to the resolute lack of interest in popular culture of Clement Attlee rather than the celeb-crazed musings of Tony Blair? Cheers!