I'm always up for a party – isn't that what we Brits are really good at? Celebrating, doing things to excess, having fun. But this party Dave Cameron wants me to sign up for is strangely unappealing. For a start, what kind of guest list is operating if everyone is included? Where's the guest list? Who's entitled to access the VIP area? Oh, there isn't one. Everyone can wear what they want, bring who they like. Doesn't sound like any kind of party I've ever wanted to attend.
We are a tribal nation. We invent castes, rules, pecking orders, subtle forms of demarcation and segregation. That's not a criticism, but a statement of fact. It's in our blood, that's what makes us British, for God's sake. That's why I can't play snooker in my village hall, even if I help with the fundraising. Even if I am on the telly. I am not a member of that club. Or the flower arranging club. Or the domino club. My community in Yorkshire sounds like what Dave is aiming at with his new big plan for social inclusion – most people help out, give lifts, pick up kids from school, collect prescriptions, check the elderly are ok and if they need any shopping. Yet the same group of people have plenty of subgroups with complicated rules and regulations, dress codes and no-go areas. The cricket club. The Young Farmers. The WI.
Or, take music, from punk to electro to house to heavy metal – a fantastic way for people to express themselves as separate, distinct armies, divided by dress, hair, heroes and forms of speech. Why do politicians seem determined to ignore the messy, tribal real world, hell-bent on imposing a phoney togetherness on a disparate nation which is so unique because it accommodates all sorts and all tastes in a peculiarly tolerant way? I grew up not talking to rockers, because I was a mod; not knowing any Catholics because I went to a Church of England school; not talking to boys who lived south of the River Thames, because Clapham and Battersea were considered provincial compared with Chelsea and Fulham. And all that never did me any harm. Didn't stunt my long-term growth. Oh, the irony of a man educated at Eton telling me anyone can join his club! Dave can chuck away rules because he's had an upbringing of utter privilege – only people who have stuff can afford to turn around and tell the rest of us that we're all equal. The cheek!
Politicians have form when it comes to proposing patronising visions of a "better" society. Margaret Thatcher wanted to turn us all into entrepreneurs, mini capitalists and homeowners, forgetting that many of us don't want to follow the stock market, have no appetite for gambling on profits and turnovers. We don't want too much money – just enough will do, thanks a lot. Tony Blair wanted a big tent with us all in it – much the same as Dave, really. Even old lefties such as Wedgwood Benn misunderstand how little the average punter wants to get involved in democracy. Politics flows through his veins – which is why he thinks we should be able to vote for everyone in public office. He's obsessed with accountability. In the real world, voters elect politicians to do the work for them. We vote so someone else can run the country, and then we can do what we're really good at – have a jolly good moan about what a mess they're making.
Dave Cameron's high-minded proposal for neighbourhood armies is doomed before it's even off the drawing board. It's about as realistic as bringing back airships to cross the Atlantic. This is the same guy who sends his daughter to a church school a couple of miles from his home, when there's an excellent state school a couple of minutes away. And wanting us to set up schools, monitor council performances and interfere in all sorts of ways is, frankly, barmy. So we're supposed to work long hours, and then start monitoring litter collection, recycling, police patrols and the performance of teachers? Get real. We can't monitor the behaviour of our own kids, let alone the highly paid goons running the local NHS trust.
Sadly, with his party invitation, Dave will have done nothing more than irritate the hell out of voters. I'm not going to join up, and neither will they. And the first television debate just confirmed that he and Gordon Brown are like two soon-to-be extinct species, politicians with master plans. No wonder the boy Clegg seems worth a punt.
Fake Mackem: Is Cherie's heart really in Sunderland?
The first time I met Cherie Blair was at a posh party, and the first thing she said to me was "That's a nice handbag", which tells you a lot really. She's always been very interested in looking good, which is not a crime. And we shared a relationship with the Caplin family – Carole's ballet dancer mother, Sylvia, who seemed to be Cherie's part-time aura consultant, had once been my personal trainer.
Cherie has been demonised unfairly by some – I've always found her extremely smart, if a little naive. She just doesn't seem to "get" how she comes across, which is why her visit to drum up support for Labour in the North-east is so in character and so doomed to ridicule.
Fresh from a £2,480 per person per night luxury hotel suite in South Africa, Cherie decided to visit the voters of Sunderland and tell them the area "had a special place in her heart". If so, why didn't she take Tony and Leo for a mini break to Whitby or even that swanky hotel with a spa that's opened near Easington? They could have walked Hadrian's Wall – which might have inspired Tony with some fresh initiatives for peace in Gaza. Seriously.
Riches from the flaws of others
Joanna Trollope has made a fortune from her books, and all we have in common is a love of Agas. She seems to move in a posh county set and is impressively focused, thin and glamorous.
In an interview to promote her latest opus, The Other Family, Ms Trollope has been holding forth on the subject of relationships, and doesn't mince her words, saying women are far too choosy, and men need to stop behaving like babies.
All perfectly true, but if women did not spend years searching for some mythical Mr Right (when in reality they'll have to settle for Mr 30 Per Cent), and if men weren't so comprehensively irritating, where would she get material for her bestsellers which have helped her accrue her fortune?
Your stranded. Get over it
I am writing this in a hotel room in Italy. Like millions of others, I don't know when I am coming home. I know it might be unfair, but in a crisis British Airways has some way to go when it comes to customer relations. I had almost arrived at the airport for my flight home when I received an email telling me it had been cancelled. It said, "This is an automated email so do not respond". Since then, I have heard nothing more except for an email asking me to complete a customer satisfaction survey relating to my flight out here eight days ago. Talk about poor timing! My travel agent thinks I "may" be home in the next 24 hours. I have a booking reference – but that means very little. An automated email can ping into my BlackBerry at any time telling me my flight has been cancelled and "Please do not try and respond". At least the food is delicious, and I am learning plenty of new pasta dishes.Reuse content