AT the last count there were six souls wanting to lead the UK Labour Party and some 14 still in the running to be the Democrats’ candidate in the 2020 US elections.

This proves conclusively that it is ambition, rather than love, which conquers all.

Run a cost-benefit analysis of leading a modern political movement and you will have no little difficulty finding anything to put in the benefits column.

Consider this: at the moment there is a TV series running on the BBC called The Trial of Christine Keeler. It details the unfolding of a political scandal from the early 1960s which was a tabloid editor’s dream scenario.

A senior government minister and his glamorous actress wife. A pair of models with, ahem, varied sex lives. A Russian naval attache. A “society” osteopath.

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Some of the details seem positively quaint now: not least that a minister caught lying to the Commons would have to fall on his sword.

Compare and contrast, etcetera.

But the real difference between then and now is how long it took for the sordid details to emerge.

As with earlier scandals, such as the king’s abdication, newspapers took a self-denying ordinance, fearful of establishment wrath, lawsuits, or both.

TV had yet to discover the joys of sending up politicians: That Was The Week That Was wouldn’t be along for a year or two; Spitting Image was 20 years hence; Have I Got News For You, not yet a gleam in a producer’s eye.

But, above all, there was no internet, no Twitter, no 24/7 news on multiple channels. And, at the apex of media management, the old boys’ network still held sway over what would be published and when.

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We live in a much-changed world, and so too do those doughty souls who would thrust themselves further into the public eye. Everything from their personal habits to their clothes will be analysed relentlessly.

Their public performances will be dissected and mocked and their families will be wheeled out as photographic accessories.

Leading a political party, in short, is the career from hell. But still they queue for it.