The A-lister isnt the first to find that canines can complicate public life and he wont be the last
By and large, reaction to Johnny Depps video apology for smuggling puppies into Australia has been bafflement. Why would he agree to such degradation? Why was he so stilted? So strained? So ill-lit?
The answer lies in Depps motivation for committing the crime in the first place. Never underestimate how far people will go for their dogs. Canine affection accounts for much that might be written off as inexplicable.
The public view of Mitt Romney plummeted after he consigned his diarrhoea-stricken Irish setter, Seamus, to a kennel on his car roof for a 12-hour journey. Relations between Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel got a lot frostier after the former allowed his black labrador, Konni, into a meeting, despite Merkels discomfort.
The ripple effect of dogs in politics is hammered home in John Prestons very funny and endlessly extraordinary new book about the Jeremy Thorpe affair, A Very English Scandal. You may recall that a Great Dane called Rinka was the sole victim of the plot by the then Liberal leader to murder his one-time lover, Norman Scott. This bitch, which Scott was minding for a lady called Edna Friendship, was assassinated on Exmoor in an incident weird enough for it to finally bring the case to public attention.
But Rinka was not alone in affecting this history. A great pack of other mutts also played a part in Thorpes downfall. There was Mrs Tish, Scotts jack russell, to whom Thorpe made fond reference in some incriminating letters; Emma, the whippet Scott once dressed in a bonnet, put in a pram and pretended was his son; and Thurston, the arthritic dachshund that belonged to the girlfriend of the Liberal MP Peter Bessell. Bessell killed time ahead of the court case making Thurston a special mobility chariot. This trial was to spell the end for him, as well as for Thorpe.
The domino effect of these dogs makes for amazing reading. As Preston explains, it is usually the irrational, rather than the planned, which finally decides the fate of people – and even parliaments. Thorpes argument for murdering Scott was that it was no worse than shooting a sick dog. As Thorpe and Bessell and even Johnny Depp show, there is nothing worse than killing a dog, sick or otherwise.