In recent decades, prominent national and international figures' private lives have found themselves increasingly in the public eye. With the birth of 'Hello!' magazine and its type, celebrities' lives have become gossip-worthy and trendy, whilst political journalism has been forever widening the field of what constitutes as being 'in the public interest' since before the 2000 Freedom of Information Act. Whilst politicians expect to be scrutinised for their work, should criticism of our public servants' lives behind closed doors be allowed or is it simply glorified harassment?


When it comes to analysing the lives of our political leaders, it is often hard to see where public service ends and private lives begin for in many ways they interact with and impact each other. This is perhaps most poignant when examining their private financial arrangements.  For example, Channel 4 Dispatches revealed last year that Jacob Rees-Mogg MP (and Leader of the House of Commons) amassed over £7 million from the Somerset Capital Management (SCM) investment firm since the 2016 EU Referendum. The cabinet minister claims such reporting to be of information "not for public disclosure" and feels he is "entitled to [some] privacy in his affairs"; however, many would feel the public must hear of this as his investments in SCM prove to become more profitable if the Brexit proceedings were to take a downward turn as a plummeting pound increases the relative value of SCM's investments. Mr Rees-Mogg's activities are not illegal as – despite his privileged inside-government knowledge – no law restricts such 'hedge fund' activity and all such investments did not involve public money, making the matter seem a rather personal and private one, which does not concern the public. However, the fact that Jacob Rees-Mogg has a financial incentive for a more hard-line Brexit approach surely brings into question as to whether his political actions are those made for the country's benefit or personal gain. The Leader of the House of Commons' actions are not exclusive to him and so clearly exemplify the need for journalistic investigations into the private lives of our senior politicians because what may ostensibly appear personal could easily influence governmental decisions that impact the wider population.  



Many also argue that there should be no restrictions on reporting such private matters for the simple reason of keeping the press 'free'.  As soon as journalistic methods become restricted, one runs the risk of losing democratic rights as political messages and actions cannot be challenged or potential hypocrisy exposed. For example, in a recent edition of the 'Andrew Neil Show,' it was revealed that Labour leadership-hopeful Emily Thornberry sends her son to a partially-selective school, despite advocating a completely 'comprehensive' schooling system. Whilst the education of her son remains inconsequential for most of the electorate and Labour Party members, it perhaps reflects the level of the passion she has in the issue. Similarly, the 2019 General Election came to reveal Caroline Lucas takes semi-regular long-haul flights to America to visit her son, undermining her green campaign for individuals to make small-scale changes. Such hypocrisy should always be explored by a free press as it allows the electorate to better understand the people it puts its trust in and come to a more rounded personal judgement as to the motives of those in charge and whether they deserve to be there.



However, even with an unrestricted press, moral decency should be exercised. Unnecessary exposure of private lives can often lead to traumatic ordeals for those involved. Such is perhaps more often seen in the case of 'celebrity' figures such as the recent events dubbed as 'Megxit' arising from the press's excessive coverage of the Duke and Duchess's lifestyle. This damage is not limited to celebrities and has resulted in many destroyed political careers and lives simply for lifestyle mistakes that may not even be deemed immoral but simply fail to meet the public expectation of the 'role-models' we have come to expect. 



It is perhaps most important to balance the ideas of evoking interest in the public readers and satisfying the public interest of what the people deserve to know. We as experimenting journalists and others as professional journalists do not want our secrets brandished for the world to see simply because someone may want to know: why should the same not apply our public figures?



By Alexander Chopra of Wilson's School