Kate McCann believes she is a misunderstood media martyr – at least that's what her mother tells us. On the very day newspapers are full of the results of a survey showing that motherhood leaves many women feeling isolated and lonely, there are more pictures of the world's most famous grieving mum looking completely alone and at her wits' end. We cannot imagine what it must be like to be Kate, endlessly photographed, every move analysed, and every remark picked over.
Everyone's got an opinion about her, haven't they? Even that charmless female Anne Enright couldn't just accept a fat cheque and the Man Booker Prize for her miserable novel about a large family without telling the world, totally gratuitously, that she hated Kate McCann. Her publishers should have put a large brown bag over her head immediately – because to put down someone who is guilty of no crime, except being fit and attractive, is thoroughly repellent. I urge you not to buy Enright's book until she apologises for this slur on another member of the sisterhood.
In the past week the McCanns have seen a panel of experts on Channel 4's Dispatches programme analyse whether they could have killed their daughter. They have let it be known to the press that they have had their twins tested for sedatives and the result was negative to dispel the myth that they regularly drugged their children. We are told that Gerry McCann has had tests to confirm he is the biological father of Madeleine, to nail another rumour. We have been told that, belatedly, the hapless Portuguese police are thinking of planning a reconstruction of the night Madeleine went missing, something the smallest rural police force in this country would have done months ago. Gordon Brown even discussed the case with the Portuguese Prime Minister during last week's EU summit in Lisbon.
In this frenzy of rumour and speculation, small wonder that the McCanns feel the search for their daughter is being sidelined as a hungry media focuses on every aspect of their lives. Now Kate McCann (prohibited from discussing the case since being declared an official suspect) is using her mother as her mouthpiece. Mum tells us Kate feels that if she were not slim, blonde and self-contained, she would not have received such a hostile reception from some quarters. True enough – once we enjoyed gladiatorial sports and watched slaves club each other to death in Roman arenas. Now we surround an attractive woman with cameras and microphones – modern artillery in the war for saturation media coverage – and seem intent on hounding this person until she does us the favour of breaking down and sobbing in front of our eyes, live on worldwide television.
Would any woman (other than a weird novelist) really wish that on another? Kate McCann can't stop being famous overnight – she can't stop the photos and persuade the reporters to go away. She consistently appears composed – unlike reality television stars – and now Mum tells us that in private she breaks down in hysterics every single day. Does that humanise her, make us sympathise more? Why should this dignified woman be reduced to dripping out these gobbets of information about her private turmoil?
Further tests on the evidence taken from a car that the McCanns hired 25 days after Madeleine vanished are being carried out in Birmingham and the results will be sent to Portugal any day. This could mean the couple will either be excluded from the investigation or charged. The sad fact is that Kate McCann has already been found guilty by many members of the public, no matter what the outcome. Her problem is that she doesn't conduct herself as we would like. In short, she exhibits a dignity and composure that seem out of place in a world where celebrities and ordinary people behave incredibly badly in front of the camera.
Britney Spears, for example, has gone so far down the route of excess that she's lost her children and her mother and sister have turned up and started screaming at bystanders. Amy Winehouse wanders around the streets of Soho with bleeding feet, devoid of any shame. Kate McCann, on the other hand, attends church, takes strength from her religious beliefs, goes running alone and always dresses neatly. That's just too sickening for some people – she can't be normal, can she?
Sorry, boys, but it's time to dig deep
Michael Grade defends ITV's highest paid entertainers, Ant and Dec. He didn't actually speak to the boys themselves, but their management assured him that the lads had no idea that their television shows were ripping off members of the public to the tune of millions of pounds. Ant and Dec negotiated a new deal worth £30m earlier this year to stay with ITV – and are named as executive producers on the series they present, a common ruse allowing stars to inflate their salaries by claiming more than one payment from a programme budget. Ant and Dec might not have known that viewers were chosen as winners in one phone competition only if they lived an hour away from the place it was being staged, but will they be digging deep into their well-lined pockets to help to refund the £6.5m that fans are owed? I doubt it. ITV will be fined up to £70m for phone frauds, but will anyone other than Mr Grade say sorry?
In memory of Dainton, a Gooner to the end
Last Friday I attended a unique event that received no attention in the national press. In the week when the England squad failed to clinch a crucial game against Russia, the sports pages were full of speculation about whether Steve McClaren would be relieved of his post. We are obsessed with football but we hardly ever read anything positive about the people who are the lifeblood of the game, the fans. My friend Dainton Connell was probably the most famous Arsenal fan ever. When the BNP tried to infiltrate football clubs decades ago, Dainton was one of those who stopped them from getting a foothold at Arsenal.
He was killed in a car crash in Moscow two weeks ago, and shortly afterwards a moving candlelit procession of grieving fans toured the streets of north London. I met Dainton when I made a television documentary about skinheads in 1977, and this huge bear of a man has been making me laugh ever since. He turned up at Matt Lucas's 30th birthday as a black Mr Pickwick, an amazing sight.
About 3,000 people turned up for his funeral last Friday and marched from the Emirates Stadium to the church. Stars such as Robbie Williams, Frank Bruno, Ian Wright and the Pet Shop Boys all knew Dainton well, but this day belonged to his fellow Gooners. Dainton was oblivious to colour – and the church was packed with black and white tough-looking blokes of a certain age, many in tears.
The stadium management had said no to a wake in the new stadium, saying that it is club policy not to host such events the day before a match takes place – sad, really.
The attack on Kate McCann, mother of missing Madeleine, by Booker Prize winning novelist Anne Enright, is, according to Janet Street-Porter, "thoroughly repellant". Janet urges readers not to buy Enright's book until she apologises. Do you support this?
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