Janet Street-Porter: Go and spend more time with your family

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The Independent Online

Not for the first time are we reminded that although politicians may look on the outside like normal members of the human race, in actual fact they are a completely different species, operating by another set of rules to the rest of us.

Let's take resigning - if you or I were running a business and misplaced 1,000 packages, or even 10 members of staff, we'd be sacked. Politicians rarely contemplate that, even when 1,000 serious criminals ranging from murderers to rapists and paedophiles are let on the loose. It's "an administrative error".

Sorry, but if you are sentenced and the judge recommends you be considered for deportation on your release, then why isn't a form saying exactly that stuck on the front of your file when you are sent to jail? Even Vicky Pollard could work that one out - that's hardly a system requiring an IQ of more than double figures to put in place.

Then, if you do something so patently wrong as to go to war on false pretences, then why not put your hands up and say sorry? Forget it. Government ministers, from Mr Blair to Mr Clarke to Patricia Hewitt have brilliantly mastered the art of the meaningless apology. Meanwhile if teenagers dare to block the pavement outside the local chip shop then it's Asbos all round. Talk about double standards.

Finally, private lives. We don't have any - identity cards are on the way, this country carries the largest DNA database of any in the civilised world, and we are filmed and photographed by security cameras every hour of our lives. But, hey, it's all for our own protection, according to politicians. But if the Deputy Prime Minister bonks his secretary for two years, cheating on his wife of 44 years, suddenly he's entitled to that wonderful thing called "privacy", so denied to us.

Colleagues rally round and mount an impressive show of loyalty. Perhaps Mr Prescott is the equivalent of a Grade One listed building, which cannot be tampered with without a court order. If Mark Oaten is discovered three in a bed with rent boys - then we are told by his party that he's entitled to privacy.

Cabinet Ministers and fellow female MPs stood solidly round Tessa Jowell when it turned out that her family finances were 600% more convoluted than yours or mine. All these people were elected by us to get on with a difficult job and not let their private lives interfere with that. Often, they can. But given that this government is flogging a policy called "Respect", you do have to wonder if they might consider their own pitifully low poll ratings on the issue of trust.

Mr Prescott is 67, and his mistress was 39 when their affair started - and I cannot imagine this situation in reverse. For too long, the Deputy Prime Minister has held on to too much power, making a series of incomprehensible planning decisions, opting to focus a huge amount of house-building in the South-east, the part of Britain suffering from a shortage of water and an over-used transport system.

He lacks foresight and vision, and is too prone to accede to costly reports prepared by an army of consultants making a mint out of his shortcomings. The time has come for Mr Prescott to quietly pack his bags, retire, and sort out his marriage. His department should be split up and run by people who understand the complexities of urban planning. Prescott has been pushing policies which, if they are not stopped, could devastate our fragile countryside for ever.

Who needs a cut-price Madonna?

Originality doesn't necessarily pay off in pop. If you watched Top of the Pops last Sunday it was hard not to notice that Orson are simply Madness under another name, and Jamie Foxx is a completely unoriginal soul singer.

Worst of all was Alison Goldfrapp, who's hyped as a diva. She plugged her new single, "Fly Me Away", a pleasant but unmemorable ditty, in her trademark peaked hat, platinum curls and short black frock, like a third-division Madonna dressed as a bus conductress. At least Gwen Stefani, another highly styled blonde, always looks immaculate. I hate to say it, but Queen Madge is in a league of her own. She has the confidence to change her image constantly - something, sadly, Goldfrapp lacks.

* The words Tesco and "environmentally friendly" don't sit together comfortably. Any retailer which specialises in building large ugly boxes on out-of-town sites, surrounded by acres of car parking, doesn't give a toss for the environment, no matter how many organic apples it sells. When Tesco start putting their buildings over their car parks, when they stop accumulating land at a rapacious rate (they are said to own 185 sites around the country), then they are acting in an environmentally friendly way. Tesco plan another 25 huge Tesco Extra stores, often outside towns where they or other supermarkets already exist. I'm not impressed that they are building stores from recycled materials or cutting their energy consumption - it's a drop in the ocean when you consider all the pointless packaging and the devastation they inflict on small retailers all over Britain. Building yet another superstore outside Inverness, where they already have total domination of the market - that's really eco-friendly, isn't it?