You will have to forgive me if this week’s column seems a trifle unhinged — insert your own joke here — but I’m writing from the refuge of my son’s bedroom, since it’s the only place I can hear myself think.
Downstairs, two nice gentlemen are in the process of removing the doors and windows on the front of the house and replacing them with new ones made out of something more akin to steel girders.
This is because, not to put too fine a point on it, my husband, Michael Gove, is now considered a serious security hazard.
In fairness that’s often been the case, especially when let loose in a second-hand book shop with a credit card, or when frying sausages. But tensions in public life being what they are, we have to take these threats very seriously.
Downstairs, two nice gentlemen are in the process of removing the doors and windows on the front of the house and replacing them with new ones made out of something more akin to steel girders, writes Sarah Vine (Pictured with husband Michael Gove)
Other MPs are doing the same, not out of choice but out of necessity. So it’s goodbye to our lovely old sash windows, and hello reinforced panes, triple bolts, panic buttons and CCTV.
Such is the price of politics. Hopefully it’s not just the fanatics it will help keep at bay. While we’re here, can whoever it is throwing eggs at my front door please stop: it’s a b****r to clean. And as for the kind donations of dog mess on our doorstep, please be aware that the only ones you are upsetting are our dogs, who find this invasion of their territory deeply distressing.
Now we’ve got a December General Election, the entire British public must also be feeling somewhat exasperated, too.
The run-up to Christmas is exhausting enough, what with school plays, negotiating the dreaded Ocado delivery slot, deciding which overpriced turkey to plump for, frantic trips to the Post Office to collect errant presents, arbitrating between warring relatives, sourcing Christmas trees, unearthing ancient decorations, wrapping fiddly things, and all the other stresses that accompany this allegedly magical time of year.
Now we’ve got a December General Election, the entire British public must also be feeling somewhat exasperated, too (Pictured: Michael Gove)
Now we must also brace ourselves for more shouting, the inevitable TV debates, snowdrifts of pamphlets, incessant canvassers, not to mention the pantomime of having to watch Diane Abbott trying to explain Labour’s economic policy.
And all because the people we chose to lead us at the last General Election can barely agree what day of the week it is, let alone set aside their differences long enough to reach a compromise on implementing the result of the referendum.
Apart from three people on Twitter, the last thing anyone with even a modicum of sanity remaining wants for Christmas is an election.
As gifts go, it’s up there with novelty socks or miniature cheese-graters on the list of things no one needs any more of, ever. A load of grown men and women squabbling over who gets to be the fairy on the Christmas tree.
We must brace ourselves for more shouting, the inevitable TV debates, snowdrifts of pamphlets, incessant canvassers, not to mention the pantomime of having to watch Diane Abbott (pictured) trying to explain Labour’s economic policy
Meanwhile, everyone’s lives are riven with conflict at a time of year that’s meant to be all about love and forgiveness but which, this year, will carry the very real threat of the wrong man with a beard descending down our chimneys.
Admittedly I probably feel this more than most. For politicians, the prospect of a General Election may feel like all their Christmasses come at once. Yet again, It’s All About Them.
But for their families it’s not so straightforward. I’m used to being a political widow, but even I have never experienced such a relentless period of pressure.
One of the few remaining joys of Christmas — now the whole thing has been hijacked by Black Friday, Amazon and the global titans of greed — is the absence of politics. For a few blissful weeks each year it all stops, and life is all about family, friends, food and not much else.
Now politics is going to dominate the brief window which, for some at least, is still considered sacred. Perhaps the answer is another extension. Not to Brexit (that’s already had more extensions than Victoria Beckham); but to Christmas itself. Because the coming weeks will make those petty family squabbles over who gets the last of the purple Quality Street sweets seem tame by comparison.
You can’t put a price on star quality
A group of BBC women, led by Samira Ahmed is suing the Corporation over its alleged gender pay gap
A group of BBC women, led by Samira Ahmed is suing the Corporation over its alleged gender pay gap.
Ms Ahmed claims she is the victim of discrimination because Jeremy Vine was once paid six times more for presenting a similar show.
But the truth is that TV presenting, like acting, is a talent and ratings game. It follows that Vine (no relation), who is a seasoned performer and hosts some of the Beeb’s most successful output, would be paid more than Ahmed, just as Laura Kuenssberg, the BBC’s ubiquitous political editor, is paid more than Jon Sopel or Jeremy Bowen.
The BBC is not like the civil service, where fixed pay scales reward everyone equally, regardless of results. It has to be able to acknowledge star quality, and if those stars just happen to be male that does not signify sexism, any more than Claudia Winkleman getting more than Nick Robinson does.
If Ms Ahmed and her colleagues can’t appreciate that, then maybe they’re in the wrong jobs.
John Legend and Kelly Clarkson have updated the teasing Christmas song from 1944, Baby, It’s Cold Outside, for the #MeToo listener.
The original has been criticised for being off-key. In the new version Clarkson sings: ‘If I have one more drink?’, and Legend replies: ‘It’s your body, and your choice.’
All very worthy. But one question: wouldn’t all the misogynistic, pornographic, violent and abusive rap songs of the past five years be a better target for pop’s Woke Wardens than a fond Christmas classic?
Labour Grenfell shame
Whatever mistakes may have been identified by the Grenfell inquiry, of one thing I am certain: one of the most wicked aspects of this terrible tragedy is the ruthless way the hard Left — and in particular John McDonnell — have sought to politicise it.
As someone who lived just streets away from the fire, I was among the many local residents who did our best to help in the aftermath. There we were, handing out food and clothing while the fire was still smouldering, the air thick with ash, the entire community in shock — but already Labour activists were dripping poison into the ears of victims, more interested in stirring up hatred and pointing the finger of blame than helping survivors.
It was horrible. And it continues today. Such people are nothing more than political vultures.
I love the story about the Queen and her battle — as recounted by her dresser, Angela Kelly — to be allowed to have pockets.
The result gives us a rare glimpse of Elizabeth the woman, as opposed to Elizabeth the Monarch.
She looks incredibly feminine, flirtatious even. It’s a reminder that true style has nothing to do with age or beauty — and everything to do with comfort and self-confidence.
Shirley’s Strictly a super trouper
You may not always agree with Shirley Ballas’s verdicts on Strictly (and quite a few don’t after her ‘controversial’ decision to save BBC presenter Mike Bushell at the expense of former Coronation Street actress Catherine Tyldesley on Sunday), but you have to respect her.
She was on the red carpet at the Pride of Britain awards on Monday, hours before getting up at 3am to have breast surgery (she’s had her implants removed following cancer fears). And she’s giving herself just three days’ recovery before this Saturday’s live show.
Even those who don’t tune in should join Strictly fans in raising a glass to a woman who redefines what it means to be a true professional.
You may not always agree with Shirley Ballas’s (pictured) verdicts on Strictly, but you have to respect her
Thanks to the tenacity of Ian Russell, the father of 14-year-old Molly, who killed herself in 2017 after viewing graphic material online, Instagram has pledged to remove images of self-harm or suicide.
It’s too late for Molly; but by his actions, who knows how many lives Mr Russell may have saved? With the New Year Honours not far off, might it be an idea to include someone who deserves recognition for once, instead of the usual gang of cronies?
Talking of Instagram, it seems that there’s no end to its insidious influence.
My attention was drawn this week by a fellow mother to a school photo form where, alongside size and frame options, two new choices appear: ‘Basic Retouching’ (described as removing blemishes) and ‘Premium Retouching’ (blemishes, plus teeth whitening and skin tone).
This, for eight-year-olds. Quite apart from the fact unflattering class pictures are a rite of passage, is it any wonder our children are so anxious and stressed out when even schools are condoning this sort of nonsense?