Janet Street-Porter: Lifestyles of the rich and famous

My ex-husband has now sold his 'story' at least three times, and probably will do so again
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The Independent Online

As the subject of a News of the World headline, "Jungle Janet is a beast in bed!", I can claim some experience of having one's private life paraded for public entertainment. My last ex-husband (a brief mistake I immediately regretted) has now sold his "story" at least three times and probably will do so again. The only consolation is that each time I read about our short-lived relationship, my sex life seems to have got more and more exotic - and now I'm approaching bus-pass age, I just find his tales of sweaty copulation charming little fantasies. Like Robin Cook with his irritatingly garrulous ex-wife, I have weathered the storm. As long as I don't look too gnarled and cross in the pictures, so what? I don't have children (although my ex does, and presumably doesn't care what his son thinks) and both my parents are dead, and so any embarrassment has been limited to catcalls from builders and a lot of nudging between punters when I pass in the street. A friend even gave me a T-shirt for Christmas with

As the subject of a News of the World headline, "Jungle Janet is a beast in bed!", I can claim some experience of having one's private life paraded for public entertainment. My last ex-husband (a brief mistake I immediately regretted) has now sold his "story" at least three times and probably will do so again. The only consolation is that each time I read about our short-lived relationship, my sex life seems to have got more and more exotic - and now I'm approaching bus-pass age, I just find his tales of sweaty copulation charming little fantasies. Like Robin Cook with his irritatingly garrulous ex-wife, I have weathered the storm. As long as I don't look too gnarled and cross in the pictures, so what? I don't have children (although my ex does, and presumably doesn't care what his son thinks) and both my parents are dead, and so any embarrassment has been limited to catcalls from builders and a lot of nudging between punters when I pass in the street. A friend even gave me a T-shirt for Christmas with my headline emblazoned across the front - not something I'll be wearing out to supper.

When I decided to appear on a reality TV show, I expected this kind of thing would happen - my private photos appeared in a gossip magazine and the Daily Mail devoted big coverage to the pressing issue of my cellulite, The Sun called me ugly and other people disagreed. Hey, I've got a thick skin, I am a journalist, and I pocketed a big fee (as well as raising £80,000 for charity). I can live with media intrusion.

In terms of fame, however, I am a minnow - the big fish, who have no right to any kind of private life or seclusion as far as the popular press are concerned, are undoubtedly the Beckhams and Princes Harry and William.

Only this week, a car bearing paparazzi photographers nearly collided with Prince Harry's jeep on a remote dirt track in Botswana, and fellow guests at the game reserve where he is staying phoned reports of his meal-time conversations through to expectant journalists.

Meanwhile the News of the World plans a second instalment of reminiscences by the Beckhams' nanny this Sunday, as the couple have lost their legal action to prevent publication. A High Court judge has ruled the story was in the public interest, when quite clearly it is nothing of the sort. In the final stages of an election campaign, there are so many subjects which are in the public's interest to know more about; for example, Labour's plans for dealing with unfair council tax, for solving the pension crisis and whether to use nuclear power for our energy needs. All sensitive topics on which committees of specially chosen experts are still working their way towards draft proposals, none of which will be ready until the end of the year, well after polling day.

So I am being asked to vote for a group of people who have not got answers to some big questions of policy, don't want to meet real voters, other than in laboratory-controlled conditions, who can't be interviewed on the radio each morning without spouting a lorry-load of waffle, and certainly don't want cheeky journalists invading their contrived photo-opportunities. Yet I could probably answer Mastermind on the subject of David Beckham's alleged infidelities and Victoria's bouts of weeping between shopping sprees, because it "is in the public interest".

Many newspaper readers know more about the domestic arrangements at casa Beckham and David's tanning sessions in the middle of the night than could ever fill in a questionnaire on Tory spending plans, the Lib Dems replacement for council tax or Mr Blair's future relationship with Europe.

We might have a media industry obsessed with the trivia of celebrity culture, but we also have a judiciary who seem to regard the famous as upstarts who have to be put in their place. I make no special pleading for the Beckhams, but remind you that their nanny signed a confidentiality agreement. She was not sacked, but chose to pocket around £300,000 for her story. What price loyalty?

Mr Paul Burrell is said to hope one day to work for the Beckhams. Fat chance! He's another example of this repulsive breed of employees who live a well-paid existence for years at the heart of a famous family and then decide to kick-start their bank balance by tearing up confidentiality agreements in the name of telling the "truth".

I don't suppose Mr Burrell built a multimillion dollar house in Florida from the profits of running a florist's shop in the Midlands, do you? Although she may temporarily have a comfortably enlarged bank balance, Abbie Gibson, the Beckham's former nanny, is now unemployable. I suggest she starts retraining now.

These days, more women work longer hours than ever before. Many share nannies, and it is a well paid job, with day nannies earning £400 a week after tax - around £28,000 a year. Those who live in will still get £20,000. To meet the increased demand, nanny recruitment agencies scour the country looking for trustworthy young girls and it seems that Lincolnshire is a particularly productive area - rural, with high unemployment. It's not surprising that the job sounds seductive, even though you can be on call for 12 to 13 hours a day, five days a week, and may have to sleep in a room with your charges. A choice between working in Woolworths in Great Yarmouth or mopping up baby sick in Chelsea? No contest. The success of the Supernanny TV series and book just shows how thousands of mothers need help combining a family and the demands of work. And many nurseries are only open from 8am until 2pm and won't take children if they are snuffling or sick. Nannies take the strain. But, no matter how young, they have to understand where privacy starts and ends.

And it's not just about working for the well known. Would you employ anyone who bad-mouthed their previous bosses? I think not. A male housekeeper who worked for me once hawked his story around - luckily the saga of washing my knickers was so dreary he had no takers. Now I operate on the principle that people can, and will, walk and talk, and my secretary has signed a confidentiality agreement. But it's lucky I'm not as famous or as sexually active as Mr Beckham, because, in the eyes of the law, no one has any right to privacy.

Meanwhile, my local Labour candidate in Islington, Emily Thornberry (defending Chris Smith's seat as he has decided to stand down), has been exposed as a mum who sends her daughter to a highly regarded selective school outside the borough in Barnet. Funnily enough, I don't view this piece of news an intrusion into her private life - in my book, this is a prime example of revealing something emphatically in the public interest.

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