Secondly, why does he think he can quote Edward VIII talking about "the woman I love" and get away with it? Is he aspiring to royal levels of adultery (or toleration thereof)? Surely he's not secretly planning an abdication ... or is he? Might he soon be discovered sitting in someone's front garden with pointy red hat and fishing-rod, opting for the quiet life?
These frivolous thoughts were the result of hearing Robin Cook's immortal words repeated every 20 minutes on Monday morning, way past nauseam, on Talk Radio's brand new Breakfast Show. The presenter, Kirsty Young, had an expert with whom to chew them over, none other than the ubiquitous know-all Edwina Currie. Currie was not grilled but she deserved the basting she got. Asked whether a man can make a reliable minister "if he is prepared, repeatedly, to tell lies and weave webs of ... " Currie interrupted with world-weary condescension: "Aren't we all?" Kirsty boiled over. "You speak for yourself!" she spat. I cheered.
Usually reliable sources predict that Talk Radio is in for a successful year. There's a long way to go, but Kirsty Young is several steps in the right direction. Her voice is pellucid, her manner assured and her mind scalpel-sharp (I'm told she's also unbelievably pretty, but this is radio). Her tent is pitched nearer to Anna Ford's than to Zoe Ball's and she is nobody's fool, despite the occasional folly of her programme.
On Monday, she had to talk to James Whittaker - whose only purpose in life is to gossip about princes and to remind us how to pronounce "Alltrrup". Then she and seven callers (of interestingly varying sanity) questioned William Hague for an hour. Kirsty was a generous chairperson, and Hague an expansive guest, waxing domestic about his complex marriage-schedule, nostalgic about the day he proposed to Ffion and lyrical about his mystifying admiration for Cecil Parkinson. The oddest thing he said, though, was about Tony Blair: "I don't think he has any beliefs or principles at all" - and then, "I like him". Perhaps Kirsty Young could have done just as well even if she weren't quite so pretty.
Two programmes this week demonstrated how much harder life can be for women in other countries. The New Slave Trade in Women (R5) was about the unsavoury use of the Internet to promote sex-tours of the east, to import innocent and trusting girls into grotesque prostitution rackets and to procure beautiful, young oriental "wives" for prosperous, elderly white men. Because the Net is an uncontrolled marketplace, huge fortunes can be made this way, at the cost of terrible suffering. Anita Bhalla's shocking programme was a powerful argument for international co-operation against these revolting practices.
Dancing Girls of Lahore (R4) was billed as a play but carried the weight of some heavy research. It was about the proud defendants of the courtesans who used to dance at the courts of the Moghuls. They keep the dancing traditions alive but their families depend for support on rich, unscrupulous men who pay the girls retainers in exchange for discreet sex (sorry, do I mean Relationships?). These graceful, abused women long to be able to offer the next generation of little girls freedom through education, but the corruption of their society makes it nearly impossible. Part anthropology, part social history, an excellent Indian cast ensured that this was also powerful drama.
Present Progressive (R4) was another hybrid: a play containing snatches of conversation from real English-language teachers in northern France. Alas, it didn't work. Lorelei King decorates anything she touches and her understated little story of an unconventional American teaching a Frog who turns into a Tycoon was charming - but all those other people who interrupted it with quite astoundingly tedious remarks about drinking tea, wearing fluffy slippers and listening to Test Match Special belonged somewhere else. Far away.
A third play, last night, offered a more conventional challenge, conjuring up exotic visions of black magic and rapid degeneration by means of a Gothick script, several audibly thunder-struck actors, and a spooky, stormy score. James Herbert's The Magic Cottage (R4) was a great story about a witchy cottage built on a mysterious, powerful fault-line and coveted by the American leader of a sinister sect. Happily, its potential for horror was undermined by two characters. One was the villain, superbly played by Kerry Shale. Though determined to win the cottage by any means, the fouler the better, he lost all his terror once you learned he was called Eldrich Mycroft. The other was the heroine's unfazeable tweedy agent, called Val, who demanded a large gin just as the world was crumbling and saved the day.
That Val is the kind of role-model we need, girls, not your dancing-maidens or your shock-jocks, your parliamentary assistants or your lonely teachers but a fine, strong, hearty woman who read Bunty when she was a child. Oh but hang on, everyone read Bunty. In You and Yours (R4) and On These Days (R4) people from Christine Hamilton to the continuity announcer were reminiscing mistily - even Bill Overton, Kirsty Young's sidekick, admitted to reading the 43-year-old comic. What are its publishers doing to celebrate this roaring success? Updating it. Out go the cut-out wardrobes: in come horoscopes, pin-ups and even - yes, you guessed it - advice on "relationships".Reuse content