Editor-At-Large: Another butterfly broken on a wheel

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The Independent Online

It's hard to think of Boy George as a butterfly, but try. What on earth was the judge doing when he sentenced the former Culture Club singer and songwriter to 15 months in prison for handcuffing a male escort to a wall in his London flat after a row, when both men have admitted they were taking drugs? Was this meant to send a message to other men who might pick each other up via the internet and indulge in a spot of sado-masochism? Or a warning that drugs are bad for us? It all sounds so horribly familiar to my generation. Has our justice system really nothing better to offer Boy George as a way out of his misery with substance abuse than a spell in the slammer?

In July 1967, William Rees-Mogg, the editor of The Times, wrote a hugely influential piece entitled "Who breaks a butterfly on a wheel?". He used Alexander Pope's line (from 1734) to conclude that the jail sentences handed out to Rolling Stones Mick Jagger and Keith Richard for drugs were disproportionate and went against basic British principles of equality. In short, they were victimised because they represented a threat to middle-class society, they were famous and they challenged the establishment.

Jagger was convicted for possessing just four pills which he'd bought in Italy over the counter without a prescription. Amazing, but true. As a result of the outcry, the sentence was reduced to a conditional discharge on appeal. Richards had been convicted for allowing his house to be used for smoking cannabis, but the sentence was overturned. More than 40 years later, what would be wrong with ordering George to do community service, to share his prodigious talents with some school kids?

I have known Boy George for years, since the Blitz club years of the early Eighties. We've certainly had our disagreements – he's mega-prickly and slagged me off in print on several occasions, when I've said or done something he didn't agree with. Fair enough. He's also done a prodigious amount of drugs, spent years on heroin and was arrested on cocaine charges in New York in 2005, eventually carrying out community service in the sanitation department, picking up garbage as a punishment for wasting police time after falsely reporting a burglary at his apartment there. Over the past few years, George has wasted his own time on a lot of bitterness, but I would not consign him to the dump – he can be super-smart, he has a wonderful voice, has been a great DJ and has made some truly memorable records.

The trouble is that Boy George is a very difficult person to like. He generally operates from the attack position (humility not being on his agenda), but God knows I felt sorry for him when he was photographed the other morning looking fat and frumpy and all of his 47 years. He's dished out enough bitchiness in the past to expect that it would all come winging its way back, but why should a man of his age be expected to dress like Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen every time he leaves his front door? Is our society so bloody youth-orientated that anyone famous who goes out looking like the rest of us is branded down-and-out or depressed? All he's ever needed is to be cared for and to feel at ease with himself.

I'm not pleading for special treatment for Boy George, but let the punishment fit the crime. When he sang "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?" back in 1982, did he really suspect that the answer would end up being "yes, we do"? Boy George is part of our musical heritage, and he provided the soundtrack to our lives at a certain moment in the 20th century – so, if we truly care about Britishness, we should take more care of our national treasures, even if they sometimes get up to stuff we don't agree with.

The naked truth – stick-like Victoria is no Gina Lollobrigida

She has often said her icon is Audrey Hepburn, but Victoria Beckham's acting ambitions to date have been limited to donning a bra and pants to star in the new advertising campaign for Emporio Armani underwear.

Posh has got a fabulous Hepburn hairstyle now, and there's not a centimetre of flab to be seen anywhere on that stick-like frame, but I fear she's got her references a little bit confused. The campaign, shot in stylish black and white by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott, shows Mrs Beckham sprawled across a bed and lounging semi-naked on a carpet, in sultry poses reminiscent of Italian New Wave cinema of the Fifties and early Sixties.

Opting for Sophia Loren-inspired makeup – heavy brows, thick false lashes and nude lips – only emphasises the fact that Posh exudes about as much eroticism as a Pot Noodle.

All the great Italian movie stars like Loren, Gina Lollobrigida and Anna Magnani had hourglass figures with wide hips, small waists and gorgeous bosoms. They had bodies that looked lived-in and faces full of expression.

Posh, whose body, incredibly, shows no trace of her three pregnancies (is she the only mother on the planet with no stretch marks?) has just two expressions: eyes open and eyes shut.

Hopeless Bafta snubs optimistic Mike Leigh

It seems exceedingly petty of those self-important people at Bafta not to give Mike Leigh a nomination for best British film for 'Happy-Go-Lucky'. I understand the need to promote new talent – and Steve McQueen richly deserves his nomination in this category for the groundbreaking 'Hunger', but why select the corny musical 'Mamma Mia!', which many found risible, over Leigh's brilliantly crafted study in optimism?

I could never understand the fuss over 'Vera Drake', Leigh's gloomy picture about a backstreet abortionist set in Fifties London, but it won him a Bafta for best director in 2005, as well as gathering three Oscar nominations. I found it almost unwatchable, a parody of working-class values. But 'Happy-Go-Lucky' was a brave and challenging film that richly deserved its critical acclaim, and its star Sally Hawkins has already triumphed at the Golden Globes. Do the Bafta film awards really carry any clout? On this evidence, I'd say very little.

It's willpower, not a DVD, that makes people lose weight

It's a war zone in Fat Britain 2009. Women's magazines are more fixated on the battle of the bulge than anything that's happening in Gaza. Open them, and you find astonishing pictures of well-known former soap stars, actresses and singers, documenting their struggle with obesity.

Some, such as Claire Richard from Steps and Mikyla Dodd from 'Hollyoaks', have dumped more weight (six stone and 10 stone, respectively) than a small child. Naturally, they claim it's down to their personal exercise DVDs, which can be yours for £19.99 a pop.

The Government has targeted another war zone in the fight on flab: menus. Restaurants and takeaways will be asked to list the calorific contents of dishes in a trial scheme starting shortly.

You can buy Claire's DVD, read before you order a jumbo burger that it exceeds your daily requirement, and shell out for Paul McKenna's bestseller about eating less. Sadly, none of these tactics works without willpower. If you've got that, why not just eat less?