The Emperor's New Clothes (07/10/12)

Purveyors of jeejaws to the masses, shopping channel QVC is the glitzy home of bad taste. No longer, says Matthew Bell – top people go there
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The Independent Online

Admittedly, it's not hard to see why the QVC shopping channel could be seen as just a teency bit naff. When the best-selling item in the "Books and music" section is the Just For Him Male Icons Double CD Rom Kit, a set for making birthday cards for men, reduced to £13.87, you do wonder if culture will live to see out the decade.

Still, nobody turns to QVC for enlightenment. You tune in for the Diamonique jewellery range, a chance to own near-Garrard-quality earrings for the price of hanging a KFC Family Feast Bucket off each lobe. Or, if you're Justine Miliband, you tune in to snap up a dazzling red dress for just £48, which you wear to the Labour Party Conference. With just a press of the red button, Ed Miliband's wife transformed herself from a lentil-stewing frump to potential First Lady.

Justine's choice of the WithSleeves frock was not only good for Labour's chances at the election. It was a turning point for QVC. Almost 20 years since the channel was imported from America, it has seen off the sneers of the Boden-wearing chatterati. It has been endorsed by a key member of the ruling class, and used as a stealth weapon in the confusing political class war of proving you're not as posh as everyone thinks.

The day after Justine's reincarnation , Sarah Vine, the wife of Education Secretary Michael Gove, was spotted flogging Liz Earle beauty products on QVC. True: this is the woman who thinks nothing of writing about her husband's underpants in The Times. But for a minister's wife to appear on QVC is a sign of how far it has come since the days of tango-tanned medallion men flogging tea bag disposal units.

QVC is now so popular that one in four households has received a package from its Liverpool warehouse. Celebrities including Jemima Khan and Lulu Guinness have starred. And if you're still not convinced that QVC is no longer the purveyor of cheap, nasty tat, I'll leave you with the thought of James Arbuthnot, chair of the House of Commons defence select committee. At the height of the expenses scandal, he was found to have spent £43.56 on kitchen utensil from QVC – three four-piece garlic-peelers. It doesn't get more bourgeois than that.