If you want entertaining and Big Brother starts to pall, I suggest tuning in to television coverage of Parliament. Last week we enjoyed top-notch comedy when John Prescott attempted to justify his two free grace-and-favour homes and hefty salary, by giving MPs the rundown of all the committees he has been ordered to chair. This was Les Dawson-style slapstick at its best, and I can only presume that Mr Prescott had the help of the same nine speech-writers he was alleged to have used to finesse his technique when he had to deputise for Tony Blair during Prime Minister's Questions the other month.
Then, on Wednesday, Jack Straw - the man who was so good at being Foreign Secretary that he's just been demoted to Leader of the House - decided to stage his own bid for stand-up stardom. He criticised what BBC newsreaders earn, implying that they were overpaid. But at least an electrifying interview by Jeremy Paxman makes me want to stay awake late at night, whereas half an hour of Mr Straw's patronising monologues are the equivalent of a large mug of Horlicks. Mr Straw made his comments during a debate, after which MPs (having moaned long and loud about how underpaid they were) awarded themselves a 2 per cent pay rise. They then downed tools for a long weekend break at 2.12pm, even though the House was scheduled to sit until at least 6.30pm! It's a fine job where you can have regular weekends in the country and loads of perks, from allowances for secretaries, fuel, second homes and transport to nice breaks at Easter, summer and Christmas. Plus, you can look forward to taking home a pay packet of more than £60,000 a year from this November.
Of course, there are some MPs, such as George Galloway and William Hague, who simply regard representing a constituency as something they fit in around their busy media career. Mr Hague clocked up £815,000 last year from speeches at up to £15,000 a time, as well as advising businesses. He made even more money writing a book about William Pitt the Younger. George Galloway earned £280,000 from his Big Brother appearance, presenting a radio show, and a book deal. Even Mr Blunkett clocked up £149,000, writing a column in The Sun and making after-dinner speeches. But most nauseating of all are the MPs who happily take free flight upgrades.
Jack Straw might think Natasha Kaplinsky is an overpaid nitwit, but he doesn't have any qualms about taking freebies from British Airways. He bought economy tickets from Johannesburg and was whisked up to Club. On a trip to Boston with his wife he went from economy to Club travelling out and managed to get up to First Class coming back. These trips are all holidays - they aren't doing any business for Britain. From where I sit, MPs are the last bunch of people who can afford to start moaning about what other people earn - Mr Straw has accepted freebies worth thousands of pounds - something most Labour voters would be only too thrilled to enjoy, if only they had the opportunity.
Last weekend, David Cameron suggested that his MPs should try to do some voluntary work in the community - and he has met a very frosty reception from Tories who are claiming that they had family holidays planned. That sounds like a load of rubbish to me. Until MPs realise that most people in Britain have very little respect for them, they cannot hope to improve turnout at election time. Why should airlines treat MPs as more important than other passengers who have saved for their tickets? MPs are public servants, and perks like upgrades should be denied them. It just reinforces the little bubble of self-importance most of them, from Mr Straw to Mr Prescott downwards, live in.
Chavs like me keep bookshops going
Our sister paper's book pages refer disparagingly to "chav lit" as a new literary genre, with the news that Random House is paying a fortune to publish Jordan's "novels", as well as signing up Chantelle. Charlotte Church has come up with her second autobiography and Victoria Beckham is penning a self-improvement manual for Penguin. Yesterday The Times started serialising Gazza's second book, which charts his battles with a whole variety of mental troubles.
But the literary world seems to sneer at these huge bestsellers, as if they are not "real" literature. Like thousands of other people up and down the country, I can't wait to read Gazza's story, and it is books like this that are being bought by people who would never normally have decided to read in their spare time.
Books by "chavs" like Chantelle, Charlotte and Jordan keep bookshops in business, not Alan Hollinghurst's over-rated pretentious twaddle, The Line of Beauty. Why are most literary critics such insufferable snobs?
That split 1: Why Paul and Heather can't work it out
Could the McCartneys' split announcement have been timed so as to maximise publicity for Heather's forthcoming book, 'Life Balance, the essential keys to a lifetime of well-being'?
The cumbersome title does not lift the spirits, but the news that Paul is to enjoy his 64th birthday alone next month have meant that photos of his estranged wife are slapped all over every single newspaper. A book which might have gathered dust and been quietly remaindered is now a collector's item, the height of naffness.
It will be interesting to see which members of the sisterhood leap to Lady McCartney's defence, because she has had coverage about as unsympathetic as you could imagine - right up there with Myra Hindley in the vitriol charts.
Although the McCartneys might blame media intrusion for their failure to gel as a couple, the truth is probably the age gap. I have tried relationships with much younger men (like Paul and Heather, 26 years) and it's hard work.
First, you have to hold your stomach in when you get out of bed, and second, life's too short to spend on a diet, keeping fit, trying to stop the march of time having any discernible impact on your upper arms.
That split 2: My younger lover hell - I couldn't get to the mirror
Old dads and young wives don't necessarily last - and while women may find having a baby wonderful, it's not exactly the same thrill when you're over 60 and trying to run your career. I had a problem trying to pretend that I was interested in my younger men's music - there's only so much rap you can endure, night-in night-out, as well as their enthusiasm for cars and jet skis.
They were always much vainer than me, spending hours in front of the mirror. Paul won't have any trouble finding a new partner, but he might consider someone closer to his own age, if he values his sanity.Reuse content