Janet Street-Porter: At least politics is brightened up by the Berlusconis

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It's seconds out in the battle between Silvio Berlusconi and his long-suffering wife Veronica.

Each day brings fresh accusations and counter claims. The stakes are high since Mrs Berlusconi announced she would be filing for divorce from Italy's richest man (his fortune is estimated at £6.3bn) last week. Their marriage seems to have been a stormy affair (when they met, Berlusconi was already married and they did not tie the knot until 1990, by which time Veronica had given birth to three children).

Now their son is 20, she seems to have decided the time is right to jump ship. Buying an 18-year-old who calls him Daddy a gold necklace and attending her birthday recently may have been the final straw for Veronica. She's spent years complaining about his flirting and public demonstrations of affection towards anything female over the age of consent.

Now the battle for public sympathy is being fought via Veronica's lawyers and through the many magazines, television channels and newspapers that Berlusconi controls, one has already printed topless pictures of Mrs Berlusconi taken years ago when she was an actress, with the headline "The ungrateful showgirl". Meanwhile, opposition leaders question Berlusconi's moral authority and call him "confused in his private life" and "a megalomaniac".

Some commentators claim the reason Berlusconi gets away with behaving like a randy old goat time after time is because male voters think he's acting out their fantasies for them. Although he's said sorry to his wife very publicly on several occasions, in order to shore up his appeal to women, this time things are very different.

Over the past few years Veronica has criticised her husband's policies, not just his sexually rapacious behaviour. She opposed the invasion of Iraq and his grandiose plans to build a bridge linking Sicily with the Italian mainland, and she didn't agree when he introduced new legislation limiting the availability of fertility treatment.

Now Berlusconi's party is in the middle of campaigning for the European elections next month, and he claims that Veronica is being manipulated by his political opponents to cause him maximum damage at the polls. He might also be worried that his high-profile wife could step into the ring and enter politics herself – and that many women would identify with her shabby treatment and vote for her.

The circus atmosphere of Italian politics seems so very far removed from the miserable era we're living through in this country. Over the last few days the big hitters in the Labour party have moved forward to defend beleaguered Gordon Brown, and this paper's brilliant cartoon depicting Hazel Blears as a Krankie just about hit the nail on the head. We're told John Prescott has got back on his battle bus and is touring the country rallying support for Labour yet again. It's enough to make you weep.

The truth is, there's no one currently at the top of the Labour party capable of rejuvenating the party, re-connecting it with voters and making it electable next year. I'm not asking for the bribery and corruption that appears to be rampant in Italian politics, but maybe a touch of their glamour and showmanship. As it stands, if Sarah Brown stood for party leader she'd have more chance of appealing to female voters than Messrs Blears, Straw, Johnson or any of Milibands.

Silvio Berlusconi is a loud-mouthed, vulgar ridiculous man who fancies himself as a crooner. He's fought old age with hair implants and a permanent fake tan. But it would be mistake to write him off as a comedy character. What he (and perhaps his wife) understand implicitly is how to make people get off their backsides and vote. In Italy, he's a national hero, a superstar – and when did we have a politician who could be described in those terms?

Pedro's far too good to give in to Hollywood

I think Pedro Almodovar is aiming too low by agreeing to let his masterpiece Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown be turned into a television series by the Fox Network set in American suburbia, featuring a group of middle-aged female friends experiencing mid-life crises.

Almodovar's 1988 film has always been one of my all-time favourites, and about 10 years ago I met the director to try and persuade him to let me turn it in a work sung on the stage. It's got all the qualities of great opera, a compressed timescale, larger-than-life characters, with plenty of drama and hysterics. The great man was enthusiastic, but sadly nothing ever materialised.

Since then, his work has become more accepted by the mainstream, but it still retains its sense of compassion as well as a healthy dose of high spirits. The trouble with mainstream US television series – even at the quality end – is that they are ultimately bland compared to the stage. Mad Men now moves at a funereal pace, and 24 and Desperate Housewives have run out of steam. Don't do it, Pedro!

Huge profits – and changing trains is still a pain

National Express can't make enough money running the East Coast Line, and is in secret talks with the Department for Transport to give up their franchise and replace it with a management contract, which will operate in the short term until the contract can be put out to other bidders. In the current climate, will there be any takers?

When National Express won the prestigious franchise in 2007, they agreed to give the government a huge share of their profits – £85m in 2008 rising to £395m by 2015. As a regular user of the line, it's hard to see how this can't be a lucrative business. The trains are packed and the fares high.

The government was far too greedy when they awarded the rail franchises. Although they claim to have the interests of passengers at heart, that's meaningless if the operators have to pay enormous sums of money out of their profits.

Meanwhile, the different operators still don't run services that connect with each other – try changing at York on to TransPennine Express from National Express for example. It's always the passenger who comes last in the equation.

*Our household has a vested interest in Fiat taking over Chrysler. We own both a PT Cruiser and a Fiat Panda. The Panda was a car I once sneered at, but not any more. I fell in love with the nippy little thing after I rented one in Italy last year, and I can't believe how many miles it does to the gallon, compared to the gas-guzzling (although very roomy) Cruiser.

If Fiat succeed in taking over General Motors Europe, on top of their takeover of Chrysler which has been endorsed by Barack Obama, they will be catapulted up the league table to become the second largest car manufacturer in the world. Fiat are brilliant at producing relatively cheap, compact, stylish cars (even the Top Gear team rate the Panda highly), and surely that's the way forward.

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