We are so used to assuming that the private life of a public figure must be revelatory — that hidden away is the real truth, which must either shatter or explain the carefully crafted official version. Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan took his 78-year-old mother Betty on the stump to “prove” that his planned Medicare reforms will not hurt elderly Americans. But if having a mother were all it took to provide humanely for the care of the elderly, any politician could do it. In Britain, meanwhile, the most accurate pre-election guide to the future of the NHS turned out not to have been buried deep in David Cameron’s psyche but right out there in public all along — in the boring old election manifesto nobody actually read.

It’s a myth that personal stories tell us the ‘truth’ about public figures, says Gaby Hinsliff


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