Family Values

Washing your dirty linen in public is all the rage, at the cost of precious family loyalty

What price loyalty? Not very much, it seems, judging by the number of betrayals that are regularly laid bare in the public arena nowadays. Washing your dirty linen in public, whether it comes from the professional or personal basket, is on the increase, a sure way of making cash and grabbing those few minutes of fame.

Ever since 1992 when Antonia de Sancha gave her version of her relationship with the then Tory cabinet minister David Mellor, kissing and telling has become an inevitable part of our lives. When a relationship that involves someone famous ends, intimacies, usually unpleasant, are routinely spilled on TV, in papers or on the internet in toe-curling detail. Political loyalty has also disappeared. Politicians and spin doctors, who regularly professed total support to their leader, on losing their job suddenly discover a deep seam of incompetence and unpleasantness that rises like slime once a book contract is on offer.

For the most part we are becoming increasingly immune to both brands of disloyalty, just as we are to gratuitous violence in films and computer games. The more we see or hear, the less impact it makes.

Julia Myerson’s new book The Lost Child exposes how her eldest son Jake’s drug abuse destabilised the family and how he was evicted from the family home at 17. With the sorry tale of the Myerson family, we seem to be plumbing new depths of betrayal – a sort of throw-out-and-tell genre made worse because it is in fictionalised form. The story will always take precedence over the facts.

I fear we are in for a spate of similar public family spats. But before any more parents take a stand against their child, they should ask themselves a few crucial questions. Who is the parent? Who should, despite the most appalling provocation, act in a grown-up way? Who should show by example that family loyalty is above all things, including a publisher’s contract and dubious claims to be “setting the record straight” and “helping others in a similar situation”? The answer is obvious. A child, however nightmarish, is always your child and deserves unconditional parental loyalty. When that goes, so do trust, honesty and a child’s stability. We can’t afford to let it happen.

Underrated: Abroad

The ravenous longing for the infinite possibilities of “otherwhere”

The king of cakes

"Yuletide revels were designed to see you through the dark days — and how dark they seem today"