San Francisco, California
London, United Kingdom
'Revealing the private lives of politicians is not in the public interest'
Where do you stand?
The British press loves a good scoop, especially when it involves an embarrassing revelation about a public figure, such as this week's story about David Cameron's alleged defiling of a dead pig. So, it seems, does the British public - after all if we didn't read it, they wouldn't write it - however much we may complain about tabloid sleaze.
Yet some things clearly are off limits: no British newspaper re-printed the cartoons of the prophet Muhammad that caused such controversy across Europe in 2006. Similarly, stories and images considered to be gratuitously explicit or a threat to national security are generally avoided. None of these restrictions is mandated by law, which suggests that there is an invisible line that marks the standard of what society considers morally acceptable.
In the age of social media, it is increasingly difficult to be a public figure and still have a private life. Nevertheless, politicians still face perhaps the most persistent and invasive scrutiny of their private affairs of all public figures.
The Prime Minister is not only the person to be caught up by this. Earlier this year, Chuka Umunna abandoned his campaign for leadership of the Labour party because of the intense scrutiny applied to his private life. The new leader of the Liberal Democrats, Tim Farron, faced a similar grilling from the press over his religious beliefs.
This begs the question: how relevant are the private lives of politicians to our judgement of them as public figures? It's one thing when an private investigation yields evidence of criminal activity or abuse of power, but how valid are stories that simply call into question their character? Answering this question depends on whether you see a politician as a public servant with a job to do, or a role model who sets an example for the rest of society.
Debates over the content of our newspapers usually lead to an argument over press censorship, but that needn't be the case here. Indeed, such a debate is not even possible until you can first agree what is and is not morally acceptable for the press to print. It's also not necessary because if we won't read it, they won't write it.
There will be two teams of speakers - one to propose the motion and one to oppose it. All our speakers are volunteers selected from the club's membership with priority given to those who have not spoken at one of our debates before.
We also decide which side of the debate they will be speaking on as we aim to challenge our members to broaden their horizons by defending positions they disagree with. However, we conceal the speaker's true opinions until the end of the debate.
Each speaker will be given five minutes to make their case to the audience and respond to each other's arguments. After that, they submit to a Q&A with the audience for an hour to ensure everyone gets a chance to speak and have their question answered by the panel. One speaker from each team will then make a two minute closing speech.
What we really care about is not who wins, but who changes the most minds. So, we take one vote before the debate starts and another after it finishes, and measure the swing. Votes are taken by a show of hands and you can abstain if you remain unconvinced.
How you can take part
All guests are welcome to contribute to the debate from the floor, but if you would like to be considered as a speaker for a future debate, you will need to join our mailing list, which you can do at www.debatinglondon.com.
When & Where
Great Debaters Club
The UK's only debate club and training programme for adults. We help our members to master the skills of public speaking and critical thinking and put them into practice in live public debates held twice a month.