Matti Vanhanen sets record straight over Prime Minister years
Book takes on perceived media misconceptions
As a politician, former Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen (Centre) would have wanted to focus on issues rather than his own persona. However, the media would not let him do that. Vanhanen feels that he was dragged from one controversy to another – from election funding to relations with women.
All of this comes out in a book written by Eveliina Talvitie, titled Matti Vanhanen. Mies joka halusi olla asia (“Matti Vanhanen – a Man who Wanted to Be an Issue”).
The book is neither a biography, nor memoirs. It focuses on Vanhanen’s seven years as Prime Minister. However, it is somewhat sparing in revealing background information on politics.
A key focus of the Vanhanen’s relationship with had with the media.
The main thread in the bookinvolves Vanhanen’s need to break out of the slot that the media built for him.
Vanhanen is especially upset that the media created an image of him as a family man with his own house in Nurmijärvi, and when this image that the media itself had created was shattered by Vanhanen’s divorce, the media felt itself entitled to “violate privacy as much as it wanted”.
“Family is kind of like a religion. It should not be mixed with politics”, Vanhanen says in the book.
Vanhanen then tries to disengage from the family values issue throughout the book. At times this reaches humorous dimensions. Vanhanen calls for evidence that he himself would have put an emphasis on family values.
Writer Talvitie looks for evidence on whose basis Vanhanen might “be caught for family values”, and manages to catch him red-handed: in the early days of his days as PM, he let journalists into his home, and his family was also in the pictures.
In his book Vanhanen also tells why he announced on the day before Christmas Eve in 2009 that he would give up the post of chairman of the Centre Party, and that of Prime Minister. His children had moved to Lapland with their mother, and Vanhanen wanted to have real free time on his weekends and holidays.
Another image promoted by the media which annoyed Vanhanen was the notion that he was was someone from the “back woods” with respect to EU policy. According to the book, it was not until the final stages of his term that Prime Minister Vanhanen was allowed outside the corner of Nurmijärvi into which he had been painted.
Talvitie deserves credit for documenting in detail which media outlets Vanhanen is criticising, and for what. In addition to popular gossip publications, the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE) and Helsingin Sanomat get their share of the criticism.
In addition to the media, Vanhanen criticises Helsinki District Court. He feels that he did not get justice from the court in the legal action that he took over a book written by his former girlfriend.
On Wednesday Vanhanen said that now, as a private citizen, he is free to criticise the system of justice, as he is no longer bound by the limits imposed by the separation of powers as is the case for politicians.
The writer of the book, Eveliina Talvitie, is Vanhanen’s subordinate at the Finnish Family Firms Association, where he is the managing director. In the book Talvitie goes through Vanhanen’s rumoured and real relationships with women, from Tanja Karpela to hairdresser Kirsi, and from Susan Kuronen to Sirkka Mertala.
There had even been rumours that there had been a relationship between Vanhanen and Talvitie. On this issue Talvitie would only say that her own experiences have taught her understanding of those who have been shaken by public controversy.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Vanhanen calls for “garden metropolis” in Helsinki region (8.9.2008)
Susan´s book sets off a media feeding-frenzy (7.2.2007)
Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen to divorce after long marriage (7.4.2005)
“Family reasons” behind Vanhanen resignation (23.9.2010)
Vanhanen goes on offensive against YLE over corruption allegations (30.9.2009)
Politics goes entertainment (5.12.2006)