Why I do have sympathy for Ant

Ant McPartlin, one half of TV’s Ant and Dec, has been part of the nation’s life for as long as people my age (18 now, thanks for asking) can remember. He has been our Saturday nights in the spring and our November nights in, staying up late in bed to watch I’m A Celeb. He has now been convicted of drink driving – and, yes, I do have sympathy for him.

The great thing about being a human being is that we can sympathise with one another while also feeling a range of other emotions and experiencing certain other moral standards. The great thing about being a human being is that we can recognise another person’s suffering, and understand how they reached such a dark place, without allowing or dismissing any crimes or moral missteps they have committed.

Ant McPartlin is the kind of human being whom we can understand right now. He has fallen down a rabbit hole of darkness – and it is very easy to do that when things go wrong. Ant admitted – very bravely and very honestly – that he was addicted to prescription drugs, and other non-prescription drugs too, all while mixing them with alcohol. This wasn’t for the fun of it. It was so he could continue entertaining millions on TV, living up to the nation’s high expectations. But it was also a way for him to cope with his own personal demons, of which he had a few. His marriage to his wife Lisa Armstrong was strained and their trials in trying to conceive placed an enormous amount of pressure and strain on both of them individually, not least their relationship as a whole.

Again, this doesn’t make falling into addiction fine or okay. We can just understand it.

That is why I do think Ant should be fined the £86,000 he has been for drink-driving, and should step down from his TV commitments for as long as he needs to get himself back on the mend.

Addiction is a very dark and lonely place. What people like Ant need is not condemnation, abuse or more fuel added to their fire of self-loathing. They need love, a fair bit of constructive criticism and time.

Ant needs time to recover. After all, his life fell apart in a matter of weeks. We should give him that time, and provide the climate of understanding but firmness when he oversteps the line so that he can return to our TV screens as a recovered man, being the national icon we all know and love.