Editor-At-Large: Who is Anne to dish out advice?

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The Independent Online

Poor Cherie Blair has now received the ultimate insult, a load of advice from Anne Robinson. At the recording of Anne's new BBC television series, What's The Problem? (for me the problem is seeing more of a certain small-minded female on the box), Anne berated Cherie for her dress sense, her singing, her speech in America. Last weekend, Anne used her column in the Saturday Daily Telegraph to try to flog her pretentious, faux traditional house in the Cotswolds, moaning about an influx of pop stars, models and comedians, who were changing the tone of the neighbourhood. Indeed, she seemed outraged that one model (Elizabeth Hurley) had opened the village fête. How much does Anne Robinson hate other women? It's breathtaking that a professionally mean-spirited journalist who hosts an undemanding quiz show on television can somehow consider herself on a higher social level (as if it matters) than Dom Joly, Kate Moss, Alex James and Elizabeth. Possibly she is irked because she thinks that they may be wealthier than her - but they all possess two things she is conspicuously lacking: wit and charm. She may also be cross that she wasn't invited to Elizabeth's 40th birthday celebrations - and I was. Anne suffers from that calamitous condition that compels her to get up and trash a fellow female a day in order to feel fulfilled. She tends to pick on targets who cannot answer back, hence her "advice" to Cherie. Whatever you think of Cherie Blair, out there in the real world, as opposed to the hot-house environment of the media sisterhood, most people don't give a toss about Mrs Blair writing a book and getting paid, or making a speech for a fee. I've tried and tried to find anyone who cares - telephoning punters from Middlesbrough to Manchester, Cardiff to Canterbury - and guess what, it's not even on their radar.

If Denis Thatcher had made a speech during Maggie's reign, it would have gone totally unremarked. He wouldn't have been asked to donate his fee to charity, to wear sackcloth and ashes. We found his drinking entertaining, his narrow mindedness charming. Cherie Blair's style might not be yours, but have we nothing better to do than place her under the microscope, dissecting every handbag, every sentence, every bit of jewellery. In the end, a mother of four is being pilloried on a daily basis - can you imagine how that affects the kids?

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If you want humour that isn't delivered by a 20-stone inebriated oaf on television, intelligent comment that isn't a series of platitudes mouthed by a knight wearing a rubber wristband, and you want to be uplifted and inspired without a background of anodyne pop in the name of poverty, head for Venice. The Biennale

delivers on all fronts - and once again art proves it reaches the places that middle-class white musicians and self-important politicians never will. Spend a couple of days soaking up acres of exhibitions in all sorts of surprising places - gardens, warehouses, churches and towers - with work from countries as diverse as Albania, Russian, Korea and Japan assaulting all your senses. Unlike the row over the Live8 line up, which rumbles on with the news that Damon Albarn plans a protest event in a pod on the London Eye, the organisers of the Venice Biennale can't be accused of élitism. This year the Biennale contains more female artists than ever before, and the winner, Annette Messager, represented France.

See walls made from balloons, space pods in which your brain-waves can be measured, red penguins overlooking the canals on Gothic balconies. Watch films of men dressed as bears on skating rinks, and others where women are told to poo in their hats - what fun! Art crosses boundaries without the need for language. When it works, it can put a smile on your face, lighten your step, or bring a lump to your throat. Of course, the notion of artists competing against each other in a kind of loony version of the Olympics crossed with the Eurovision Song Contest with the prize a Golden Lion, is bizarre and somewhat irrelevant - how do you judge a chandelier made of tampons against a concrete wind tunnel, a photo of a Spanish lap dancer against an installation of the late Leigh Bowery's extraordinary costumes? And surely artists, who generally have the biggest set of egos on the block, must feel hurt and humiliated if judged second best? Amazingly, it seems not.

In Gilbert and George we've got two of the finest ambassadors Britain could ever have. Endlessly crowd-pleasing, effortlessly polite, patient and courteous, they deliver a killer message, brilliantly packaged. Drawing on all our best national characteristics - irony, excellent tailoring and the power to subvert tradition, their huge The Ginkgo Pictures takes your breath away. Using computers to manipulate larger-than-life, full-length pictures of themselves and hoodie-wearing locals, they've created a multi-layered world with references to Masonic imagery and magic, religion and symbolism. Fine-veined ginkgo leaves are a recurring motif. Some ascribe miraculous healing properties to these trees, believing that ginkgo biloba can extend your life. So Gilbert and George, in their sixties, are perfectly at home in multi-cultural Britain, living and working in the heart of the Muslim and Bangladeshi communities around London's Brick Lane. Instead of seeing the young as a threat, they incorporate them into a celebration of the present. G and G have documented a new establishment, with its own heraldry, calligraphy, hand signals and double meanings. Long before the owners of sundry shopping malls decided to demonise the hooded sweatshirt, G and G were revelling in its potential. They see it as the clothing version of a foreskin, a simple way of expressing your masculinity. They appear as Knights Templar, flipped and mirrored faces contorted into screaming demonic masks. Like the marble knights on tombs in Winchester, Canterbury and Lincoln, Gilbert and George present a new version of our history. It's thrilling and evil, all at once.

At these events gallery owners, museum directors and wealthy private collectors vie to worship at the feet of the artist of the moment. In palaces with ceilings painted by Tintoretto, gallons of champagne are drunk and endless trays of canapés consumed as everyone celebrates the huge business that is modern art. Over the past decade, the Biennale has mushroomed and the number of participants has increased. These days art seems more exciting than rock'n'roll, attracting the same hangers-on, the same media army. Like rock'n'roll, art has spawned hundreds of new publications, from fanzines to glossies and now there's even art radio. G and G, at the centre of all this, are in no danger of succumbing Geri-Halliwell style to an inappropriate burble of self-congratulation or even uttering a single sentence that might make them more cosy, more mainstream, more marketable to the middle classes. Their catch phrase has always been "art for all", but it doesn't mean achieving acceptance through banality. Three cheers for G and G, living treasures!

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Finally, the case for abolishing the ludicrous honours system gains momentum with the news that Terry Wogan has become "Sir". There's only one thing that can save the system now. Step forward, Sir Gilbert and Sir George.

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