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Columnists

Secrets of success

Lucy Winkett

WinkettAt the time of writing,  the Wikileaks storm is raging. Over a quarter of a million documents have been leaked, 15,000 of which were apparently Top Secret.
I wrote last month about my slight obsession with the BBC series  Spooks, which was born from a  childhood love of James Bond and Thunderbirds and all things spy. Now, the diplomatic tones of private conversations have become articles in newspapers and it is either a striking commitment to transparency or a betrayal of the confidentiality necessary for the smooth running of international relations.  

Has China really softened its approach to the prospect of a united Korea? Or has the leak made that, even if it were true, now impossible? Was Prince Andrew cocky?  Does it matter that US diplomats have been rude about virtually all the European political leaders?

Each of us of us says things in what we think are private or discreet situations that we wouldn't want broadcast to the four corners of the earth.  The ridiculous comments made by Lord Flight about 'breeding'  were offensive and, despite his desire to withdraw them (a quaint but vain hope in an internet age), he has resigned his post as a government adviser. Together with the Bishop of Willesden, who wrote on Facebook about Prince William and Kate Middleton,  he has paid a high price for loose talk.  It's reminiscent of the saying of Jesus 'that what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed from the housetops'.

Perhaps it depends who we think we are when we say these things. For those of us who identify ourselves as Christians,  it's also important to recognise that we are lots of other things as well:  citizens, consumers,  siblings,  parents,  shopworkers,  teachers or businesspeople.  Which of us is it who worries about the mortgage,  and is it the same person who  has a view about nuclear weapons? Which of us is it who is scared of dying and is it the same person who thinks doctors should manage their own budgets? Which one of us is captivated by someone we know we shouldn't be and is that contradicted by our disapproval of the politician caught with a lover?  We live with multiple identities and, in private, the more unpalatable of our personalities sometimes makes an appearance.   

One of the most heinous of modern sins is hypocrisy, seen to be the height of dishonesty. But even the most vociferous of tabloid columnists has said things in private that they would not want made public, and the ferocity of their reaction leaves no room for tentative or exploratory public conversation. I'm not defending the comments made by the lord or the bishop or the royal: they are all in positions of great privilege, and their views are not ones I share. But that's not the same as defending the  right of  people in public life  to have private opinions that aren't always ready, or may never be ready, to be shouted from their, or anyone else's, roof.

Lucy Winkett