I AM TO blame for the appalling state this country is in. I voted for them. I was one of those 11th-hour changes of heart who made a mockery of the opinion polls at the last election. If any pollster had asked me at any time for months beforehand which way I was going to vote, I would have said, definitely, Labour. I wanted a government that would do something about homelessness and poverty and preserve the last remnants of the NHS and I was quite prepared to pay higher taxes to achieve it. In fact the more the Tory press went on about how Labour's tax plans would squeeze the middle classes, the more smugly virtuous I felt. So what happened? What did happen? The trouble is I can't for the life of me remember what brought it on but two or three days before the election I had a little fit of panic and thought Labour might ruin the economy. Ha] They might squander our reserves, I thought, they might damage small businesses. Whereas grey little Mr Major, with his accountant's demeanour and Exchequer experience, clearly knew what he was doing and had a long-term goal in sight. Read it and weep. I now realise that there is no long-term economic goal that could justify putting one in ten people out of work, that could encourage them to mortgage themselves to the hilt and then snatch their houses away, that could lure them to start their own businesses and then make them bankrupt, that could condone the lemming-like behaviour of the City, the irresponsible greed of the lending banks, and the cynical venality of the company chairmen who unblushingly award themselves six-figure salaries while presiding over the decimation of their workforces. I will never never never vote Tory again. My repentance does no good to anyone but at least it shows that, unlike Mr Major, I can admit my mistakes and hang my head in shame.

THIS WEEK I found out something I've long wanted to know. It was at one of the countless parties for Graydon Carter, the new editor of Vanity Fair, where I was introduced to a familiar- looking man with an enormous, taurean head who turned out to be John Richardson, the brilliant biographer of Picasso. Meeting him was exciting enough, but then I remembered why he looked familiar - he is one of those famous people who feature in The Gap T-shirt adverts. So I asked what I wanted to know, namely, how much do they pay? He said, 'You'll be shocked . . . dollars 750 and all the T-shirts you want]' He seemed to think I'd be shocked it was so much, but actually I was shocked it was so little. Still, I suppose it's better than writing.

AT ANOTHER Graydon Carter party, I learnt a valuable new interviewing technique from Rory Knight-Bruce, the fox-like editor of the Evening Standard Londoner's Diary. He kept introducing me to people, saying, 'This is Lynn Barber; she lives like a nun, you know.' Eventually I was so annoyed I hissed, 'What do you mean, 'live like a nun'? I smoke, I drink, I gamble, I used to work for Penthouse, I . . .' Then I saw his beady journalist's eyes light up and swallowed my tongue. Clever man.

FOUR OUT of five women enjoy using a vacuum cleaner? Where do they get these amazing statistics? Have you ever met anyone at all who enjoys

using a vacuum cleaner? I suppose people who grew up with sand and sawdust or polishing floors with red leading might be mildly grateful to the vacuum cleaner but such people must be pretty decrepit by now. Aha, I see the statistic comes from a magazine called House Beautiful. I don't read House Beautiful. I guess probably Norma Major reads it when she puts her feet up after a hard day's ironing. Anyway, of the thousand masochists who responded to House Beautiful's questionnaire, 3 per cent, that is, 30 people if my calculator serves, admitted to having accidentally sucked up their pets in the vacuum cleaner. This confirms something I have long believed, viz that most housewives are mad as snakes. I was one myself for five years, so I know whereof I speak. The life, if one can call it that, consists of a hectic round of unproductive busy-ness, interspersed with joyless socialising, and, by way of intellectual diversion, the making of lists headed Must Do. Since housework expands to fill the time available, the Must Dos develop a luxuriant life of their own so that without constant vigilance you end up thinking you MUST get the cobwebs out of the cornices or MUST iron all the teatowels. Then, the drunkenness] I come from a not-exactly-teetotal profession, but I have never seen people wolf a bottle of vodka the way we housewives regularly did at what we laughingly called our 'coffee mornings'. It was like I imagine Australia must have been in the days when the pubs only opened for an hour a day - the trick was to get drunk and get sober again all between dropping the kids off at playgroup and picking them up two and a half hours later, with a quick dash to Sainsbury's in between. I suppose if I had tried vacuuming at the time I could easily have gobbled the odd gerbil but luckily it never occurred to me. If man can send rockets to the moon or, more to the point, invent model aeroplanes which whizz round while he sits on a park bench, why can't he invent something similar for vacuuming? Maybe because the crazies who fill in House Beautiful questionnaires would say it spoilt their fun.

'QUEEN MOTHER 'is well' ' said Monday's Mail, apparently responding to stories that she had been unwell (not like Jeffrey Bernard, I trust) at the weekend. Surely this should displace Claud Cockburn's 'Small earthquake in Chile. Not many dead' for the most boring headline prize.

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