This season's panto star isn't Pamela Anderson, Joan Collins or even Nigel Havers – but the middle-aged bloke in the rakish hat, Mr Twinkletoes, Vince Cable. I laughed when I read the transcripts of the little chat he had with two attractive young women in his constituency office in Richmond. The gullible Mr Cable didn't realise that Holly and Heidi, two giggling twenty-something young mums anxious for an in-depth chat about party politics, were under- cover reporters from the horrid Daily Telegraph, intent on persuading him to confide what he secretly thought about having to work with the nasty Tories.
There are no surprises in the ensuing revelations – just confirmation of what many of us suspected: that working with people you hadn't even planned on getting engaged to, let alone sharing a bed with, is difficult. Every day, you have to bite your lip and pretend to the outside world (i.e. the media) that your shotgun marriage is working reasonably well and you're all chums. Deep down, you harbour seething resentment that although you're a popular guy and a big cheese in your party, in this marriage you are firmly in the back seat.
Mr Cable won our hearts with his appearance on Desert Island Discs, when he talked of his love for his first wife, his inter-racial marriage, and his passion for ballroom dancing. We forgot the other bit of his personality – the Machiavellian streak that took him to the top in the oil industry and made him a force to be reckoned with in the Lib Dems. We were captivated by the nice side of Mr Cable, love-blind to his shortcomings. In politics, he stands out as a character, like Ken Clarke.
Both "seem" like ordinary people. But, of course, they're not. To spend your working day wheeling and dealing in the minutiae of government requires a very focused mentality and a streak of ruthlessness. And Mr Cable is a very vain man – why else would he agree to appear on a BBC reality television show over Christmas, dancing? His £10,000 fee will go to charity – hardly justification for making an exhibition of yourself. Does his prancing about in prime time make us feel happier about the coalition's failure to regulate banks and bonuses or its cack-handed handling of tuition fees?
The problem for Mr Cable is that he's mixed up the daily grind of political compromise with self-promotion. During the run-up to the election he was curiously silent – when I shared a platform with him in the last Question Time before polling day he was reticent, and seemed very tired. Perhaps he sensed that the outcome would not be easy to live with. Now he's got a ministerial role, but it requires humility and patience – not necessarily his strong points. Mr Cable told the Daily Telegraph undercover agents that working with the coalition was like "fighting a war" but he had an ultimate "nuclear option" which would bring down the Government – his resignation. When exposed in the hard light of day this assertion seems like wishful thinking, a vanity promise.
Four other Lib Dems, including care minister Paul Burstow fell for the Telegraph totties – all men of a certain age. What does that tell you about their egos? Mr Burstow says he's embarrassed by his remark that David Cameron wasn't to be trusted. He should be more embarrassed that he was so indiscreet and unprofessional when flattered by the attentions of two young women he'd never met.
Another victim of his own vanity is Julian Assange, who tells us he "enjoys" female company, that groupies pursue him, that he can't see anything wrong in serial shagging with no strings attached. Now he's signed a huge deal for his autobiography, which will undoubtedly be a bestseller.
Mr Assange, like Vince Cable, has an inflated idea of his role in the global scheme of things – he imagines he's on a mission to shine light on murky goings-on in banking and global affairs. Most of WikiLeaks' "revelations" have been disappointing, banal bits of titillating gossip confirming preconceived ideas we already had about Gaddafi, Berlusconi and co. Mr Assange is basking in the spotlight – and, like Mr Cable, the more we know about his over-inflated sense of self-worth, the less we find him impressive.
The politics of pudding make me sick
The latest battle in US politics is being fought over the humble dessert. Yanks love big sticky puddings, from pecan pie to chocolate brownies with massive scoops of ice cream. Michelle Obama has been a spokeswoman for Let's Move, a healthy eating campaign aimed at reducing high levels of child obesity, and has told her two daughters that "dessert is not a right".
Sarah Palin, currently starring in her own reality television programme, was quick to pounce on dessert-denial, implying it was anti-American not to eat a disgusting concoction called "s'mores", made on the campfire with roasted marshmallows, chocolates and crackers. Palin says the First Lady doesn't trust families to decide what their children should eat, implying that diet is a personal matter and not something moms need any lectures on. Celebrities and presidents' wives never seem concerned about whether they are qualified to offer advice. Gwyneth Paltrow is about to launch her first cookery book, and a sneak preview on the internet tells us that Gwynnie considers cooking one of the main passions in her life.
Why anyone would want to cook pasta, risotto or a quick family casserole because a rich movie star has put her name to a recipe, is completely beyond me. She says, "The stove is the epicentre of my house." You can bet it's not the kind of cooker we can afford.
The best babies are born at Christmas
My birthday is at Christmas, which is fine. I never mind, but this snowy December, gathering any group of friends together to eat, drink and be merry is proving difficult.
Usually, I celebrate in the village hall, with pass the parcel and musical chairs. This time, it will be a small dinner in the local pub. The good thing about Christmas birthdays is that they get swept up into the general festive warmth.
I'm grateful that anyone remembers – even if my birthday gets a mention on the local radio station, followed by a naff record. There are no secrets when you're 64 – just the growing realisation that every year fewer people say, "You don't look your age."
Ambridge teeters on the brink
The Archers celebrates its 60th anniversary on 1 January, and its all-powerful editor Vanessa Whitburn, promises events that "will really shake Ambridge to the core".
I'm not sure that I want my new year ruined – and there has been no hint of an impending disaster in recent episodes. We Archers fans like to wallow in long-drawn-out nastiness. We don't like nasty shocks, but nail-biting cliff-hangers, such as whether Ruth would consummate her affair with the cow hand (she didn't).
Please, please, can we have a few hints? I'm now listening to each episode avidly for clues. Will Jack recover from dementia? Not very likely.
Will Matt marry Lilian? Even less likely. Is runaway bride Alice expecting twins? Possibly.
The suspense is unbearable.Reuse content