Columnist for The Independent
great challenge of the day comes when I’m reminded by the Comment
desk’s deputy editor, Matt Hoffmann, that he’s expecting my selections
for the British Press Awards today.
Always tricky, the whole
being-put-up-for-awards thing, as one has to appear insouciant to the
point where one implies that one really has far more important things
to do, without actually letting people run away with the idea that you
don’t mind whether you’re entered or not. As a compromise, I explain
that I haven’t really been able to give it much thought, but could
perhaps point him in the direction of one or two that have received
more than usually volcanic displays of lavish praise. He seems every
bit as insouciant about these great works as me.
This is deadline day for the Saturday column, which takes up a whole page.
or four pieces are expected, including one that can be lavishly
illustrated. Usually, thinking of a decent picture that I can think of
a 148-word caption for, takes up the biggest chunk of the day. For a
while I rebelled against the “write about an attractive woman” formula,
because when men do these columns they usually choose a woman they wish
to praise, and women tend to opt for one they slag off.
was falling into the same trap, I started doing only men, which was
even harder. After about three months Simon cracked, and begged me not
to make Roy Keane my main pic, as the whole man-thing was such a
turn-off. Sadly, I had to agree.
Since then it’s been girls,
girls, girls. Friday was Anne- Marie Duff. I wasn’t that nice about
her, despite the fact that she’s fabulous.
out to dinner with my husband and his agent, talking about the
importance of diplomacy, when Sally-Anne Lasson, wife of Indie editor
Simon Kelner, sits down at the next table. We do introductions then get
back to out highlevel talks on diplomacy. Seeing Sal prompts my husband
to ask after Simon. “He’s a week off fags,” I tell him knowingly.
our agent-companion, wheels round at Sal, then glares at me in horror
and amazement. “I though she was your boss’s wife! Why on earth are you
calling him a weak old fag?”
have to be up at the crack of dawn today, to appear on BBC Breakfast.
I’m a bit worried, as the last time I did the show, I managed to be
half-an-hour late, so that the item had to be rescheduled, and then I
managed to say the word “fuck” live on morning telly and got reported
to Ofcom. It was a nightmare.
I was talking about how society
blames parents when children behave badly, when maybe there should be
wider consensus on how all adults should behave when their behaviour
can reasonably be accessed by children. I started referring to French
Connection’s adoption of an obscene anagram and found myself, like a
rabbit in the headlights, being horribly sucked into saying the very
word I was complaining about, and doing the very thing. Luckily, in an
item about child trust funds, all went without disaster. It was very
good of them to have me back at all.
Then, into the office, to do
my other column, which I much prefer, for the comment pages. This one’s
a straight 1,200 on a single subject, so you can get your teeth in a
I was commenting on the new Home Office proposals on
prostitution. Their timidity is an index not just of the Government’s
difficulties, but also of the intractable controversy this subject
to the Centre for Social Justice, in Kennington, to hear the boy wonder
speak about how the Conservatives are going to eradicate poverty once
he’s Prime Minister. He says that he hates it when Tories tell him that
they hate the very phrase social justice and claim that that isn’t what
Conservatives do. Wilberforce, Cameron says, launched his campaign
against slavery in Kennington, Shaftesbury launched the ragged school
movement in this part of town, and Abraham Lincoln acknowledged how
inspiring he found the conservative thinking on social justice that
emanated from this part of town. They were also conservatives, Cameron
says smugly, so what I ask is: “When did Conservatives stop being in
favour of social justice.”
I repress the almost overwhelming desire to shout: “1979.”