But Rebekah Wade is not in the Cabinet. She is the editor of The Sun, and judged by different standards. Most papers reported her arrest and eight-hour detention in a jocular way. The rival Daily Mirror made light of it. My esteemed colleague Roy Campbell-Greenslade of The Daily Telegraph and the egregious publicist Max Clifford were invited on to Radio 4's Today programme, and both thought the incident highly amusing. How funny it all was. And The Sun's campaign against domestic violence - which was not a joke - was judged to make the incident funnier still.
Speaking personally, I would be perfectly happy if Ms Wade and her husband Ross Kemp were to blast each other into the next world, but my personal feelings are beside the point. Rebekah Wade is a public figure. Not only that, she takes a high moral line - and not only over domestic violence. When she was editor of the News of the World, her campaign against paedophiles led to rioting in Portsmouth, and an attack on an innocent man. Ms Wade declined to defend her newspaper in person, however. Though she wields a lot of power, she almost never allows herself to be interviewed or held to account. The Sun is forever laying down the law, telling us what is right and wrong, and possibly being taken seriously by some of its readers, but Ms Wade is evidently immune from her own moral precepts.
The Sun, of course, gave scant coverage to the incident, and quoted Ms Wade as saying that it was "just a silly row". (Some row!) The paper nonetheless splashed with the story that "Hardman Steve McFadden", who happens to play Ross Kemp's brother in EastEnders, had himself coincidentally been attacked by his former lover. She was not a newspaper editor, and so the assault could be made much of.
Most other newspapers were indulgent of Ms Wade because their editors and proprietors have an interest in other princes and princesses of the media class not being judged with the same harshness that they show towards erring politicians or film stars. Rupert Murdoch, the Mephistophelean ringmaster in this amoral circus, told Sun journalists that "they should make light of the situation also". Mr Murdoch is the ultimate hypocrite. His newspapers pry into the private lives of others, while he jealously guards his own privacy.
One law for the media class, another for almost everyone else. How fitting it was that earlier in the evening Ms Wade should have been consoling David Blunkett over a drink at the headquarters of News International, publisher of The Sun and The Times. Mr Blunkett is an old friend of The Sun's. You might say that he is regarded by Ms Wade as an honorary member of the media class. In the days before his resignation, The Sun barely covered his tribulations. (The Labour-supporting Daily Mirror gave them even less of an airing.)
It is nonsense to pretend, as do Mr Blunkett and Tony Blair, that he was brought down by a concerted campaign by the tabloids. If it had been left to The Sun, he would still be in office. The newspaper refuses to report events that embarrass its friends in New Labour, or undermine the causes which it champions. A reader who relied solely on The Sun would think that Mr Blair told the absolute truth in taking us to war against Iraq, and that, with one or two minor blemishes, the Anglo-American occupation of that country has been a runaway success.
Rebekah Wade will not be sacked - not for the moment. Mr Murdoch will not be pleased, of course. Any publicity is undesirable. But for the time being she will return to her bunker, unseen by the world, unreproached by other newspapers, selecting the news that suits her master, and telling Sun readers how to live their lives.
Racism rears its ugly head at 'The Guardian'
I have been meaning to write about an extraordinary example of anti-Semitism on The Guardian's website. A few weeks ago it ran a debate entitled "David Aaronovitch and Nick Cohen are enough to make a good man anti-Semitic".
A politically correct creep complained that the title was prejudiced, and should be re-titled: "David Aaronovitch and Nick Cohen are enough to make a good man, or woman, anti-Semitic".
Mr Aaronovitch and Mr Cohen have supported the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq. Both men have Jewish-sounding names. Mr Aaronovitch writes a column for The Times, Mr Cohen one for The Observer. As it happens, I have not always been among Mr Aaronovitch's greatest admirers. I also think the war is an unmitigated disaster. None of this prevents me from thinking The Guardian's behaviour pretty amazing.
Emily Bell, the editor of the Guardian Unlimited website, has written an exculpatory piece explaining that it was not The Guardian that began the debate on what is called "a website talk board", but one of its users. But she admits that website "talk threads" that are offensive can be got rid of, and claims that as soon as this one was spotted it was deleted.
Maybe. But she also says that "having a degree of freedom and spontaneity in your discourse with readers is vital" and "the price of free expression can be higher than you would ideally like". Surely not when The Guardian website provides a home for racist chat, and the newspaper's good name is polluted.
Age shall not wither her, but the 'Mail' will
The Daily Mail, which has a higher proportion of women readers than any other newspaper, specialises in stories which suggest that apparently beautiful women have their flaws. "Celia shits", the poet Jonathan Swift wrote, by way of bringing the beautiful heroine of Shakespeare's As You Like It down to earth. In a milder form, that is what the Daily Mail does all the time.
Actually, I don't mind it too much. I can see that it might even help younger female readers to be shown pictures of film stars, who like to be pictured on their own glamorous terms, wearing no make-up and dark glasses as they nip out to the corner shop looking ordinary, hoping no one will see them. But I draw the line when it comes to older women.
Recently, the paper ran a photograph on page three of Jane Fonda sitting hunched in a wheelchair, looking about 108. She had just had a hip operation and was very frail. To ram home the point, the Mail also carried a picture of the 67-year-old actress in her younger days. Poor Joan Collins has also been the subject of mean-spirited photographs emphasising the effects of ageing.
What is the paper trying to prove? We all get old, and Jane Fonda should be congratulated for trying to keep, on the whole successfully, the advancing years at bay.Reuse content