How much does it take to make you feel flattered? What does it cost to seduce you? If your prey is Dame Anita Roddick you'll need to be male, French, and be carrying about £130m in a suitcase.
Let's be honest, most women reading this newspaper would have very little problem feeling absolutely fabulous if someone paid them over a hundred million pounds. But if you have spent your working life building up a business whose whole raison d'être is supporting the underprivileged, promoting ethical trade and maintaining a distinctive presence as one of the world's most single-minded brands in an industry full of bullshit, it is surprising that you suddenly decide to drop your knickers and leap into bed with a big butch male corporation whose philosophy seems to represent everything you abhor.
I have always had a lot of time for Anita Roddick. She truly did show women that there was another way to conduct business. She managed to establish a brand in the cosmetics industry which reflected her ideals about recycling, natural ingredients, and helping some of the world's most exploited tribes in remote parts of Africa and South America. Now we don't always buy body lotion the way we donate to charity. And there's only so much cocoa butter you can slather on in a year. And over the past decade, the Body Shop has looked tired and unsexy next to new arrivals such as Fresh and Space NK. The sale of the Body Shop chain to the giant French conglomerate L'Oréal (the world's biggest cosmetics company) for £652m means that Dame Anita will be even richer than she already is, and that L'Oréal will now have even more of a stranglehold on the high street. It already owns Maybelline, Garnier and Lancôme cosmetics, as well as a whole range of fragrances from Armani to Ralph Lauren. I respected Anita Roddick as a feminist and a woman of principles - now I can see that she's easily seduced, just like the rest of us. Two years ago she attacked L'Oréal for only employing sexy women at its counters, and said that the beauty industry promoted "unattainable ideals and sabotages self-esteem". Body Shop has always been firmly against animal-testing, while L'Oréal has declined to sign up to the Humane Cosmetics Standard, which tells consumers if products have been tested on animals.
Dame Anita has not been involved in the day-to-day running of the Body Shop for some time, but she has publicly and vociferously represented the caring, committed face of the company - and it has recently seen a return to profitability. With this acquisition L'Oréal can be seen to be politically correct, without changing the way its core business operates at all. Dame Anita will attend its board meetings and rant on about the Third World and ecology and community politics. L'Oréal will take a small amount of notice - if it doesn't deflate the share price, and if this concept can be marketed in a sexy, fashionable way, because it is a company where ethics takes second place to packaging and hype.
Everyone involved will feel better. Dame Anita has a new campaign to wage and L'Oréal acquires a veneer of political correctness. The only loser is the female consumer - who now has less choice and sees yet another role model take the money and run. Dame Anita has already said she doesn't want to leave her money to her family, so why the need for another £100m? L'Oréal will never be interested in recycled packaging. Its whole ethos is concerned with peddling the myth that cream can stop you from ageing - something I thought Dame Anita violently objected to. There is no middle ground in this argument. She has sold out.
Lap dancers a threat? Bring 'em on, Ken
I always thought the South Bank of London had a wonderfully colourful past. In Shakespeare's time the Globe was surrounded by brothels, ale houses, beggars and all sorts of petty criminals. Now Mayor Ken Livingstone and the Dean of Southwark are determined to act as moral police to ensure that this part of the city has a new 21st-century atmosphere. They've risen up in outrage because the local council has granted a licence for a lap-dancing club under one of the arches of London Bridge station.
I can hear you chortling already: it's OK to sell mutton in Borough Market or overpriced tourist trinkets in Tooley Street. But a lap-dancing club - which wouldn't operate until 9pm - is, according to Mr Livingstone, a threat to the safety of the female employees who work at the Greater London Authority nearby. If you want to feel under threat, visit the many pubs full of drunken men and women after 7pm. As for upsetting Muslims, children and people visiting London Bridge Hospital, I hardly think walking past an establishment with blacked-out windows will scar them for life.
I've got news for Ken and Co - London's best communities are where people co-exist, lap dancers, office workers and even religious leaders whose churches seem rather underused. Why not start pole-dancing classes in the crypt of Southwark cathedral? That would pack them in.
Cooked books; Don't bank on a celebrity endorsement
Sophie Michell might be a talented cook, but if she hadn't spent two years employed as a chef by Claudia Schiffer and her husband, the film producer Matthew Vaughn, it's unlikely she would ever have been offered a book deal. Now Ms Michell wants our sympathy because she's been declared bankrupt.
Her former bosses went to court and got her cookery book pulped because slapped right across the cover was a glowing endorsement from Ms Schiffer - "We love Sophie, and everyone loves her cooking too" - lifted without her permission from a private letter written to Ms Michell's mother.
Sophie might whimper, but she's learnt the hard way that Claudia is a millionairess precisely because she has protected her brand so well. She's not about to let a former employee, who was probably paid really well for cooking her breakfast, cash in.
White teeth: Cherie, get Tony to a dentist immediately
Does Tony Blair dye his hair? I don't know, and frankly don't care. But watching our Dear Leader on the 'Parkinson' show the other night I was immediately struck by how appalling his teeth were. Before you all write in and use the words "pot" and "kettle", can I say that my dentist completely agrees with me. Blair is very switched on about his clothes and his public image, so how come he's done nothing about the receding tooth in his lower jaw?
All he needs is one well-placed veneer. As it is, he looks like a wino every time he smiles, and the top line of frilly fangs need sorting out too. Time for Cherie to book an appointment.Reuse content