Why The Pink List is a cut above


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The Independent Online

Are lists important? As editor of this newspaper in 2000, I thought gay people faced discrimination, in all sorts of subtle ways. I started The Pink List to celebrate the huge contribution they make to every aspect of modern life, determined it shouldn't just be a list of arty, media types, but include as wide a range of professions as possible. Since then, so much has changed – civil partnerships have been enshrined in law and I was honoured to make a "best woman" speech at the union between Elton John and David Furnish. Gay marriage is the next milestone on the road to true equality, which leads to the question: are lists still a good way to measure achievement and lobby for change?

Over the past decade, we seem to have become fixated by them. Lists are used to measure historical, cultural and social milestones in easy-to-understand shorthand. Even the BBC asks us to vote on the greatest books, movies, poems, engineering and scientific achievements of all time. As a way of exploring culture, most lists leave me cold – even though I once took part in an ITV show, Britain's Favourite View, and the public voted my choice of the coast near Bamburgh in Northumberland into the final four. Promoted as a newspaper editor, my ranking on women's power lists soared. Once I stepped down, they slumped, which is bizarre, as I now appear on television and produce two newspaper columns every week.

I still think some lists are relevant, though. Last week, Stonewall was criticised by Coutts and Barclays, which sponsor its annual awards, for awarding its Bigot of the Year award to the leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland. He had called gay marriage "grotesque" and compared same-sex relationships with slavery and child abuse. Stonewall is right – after all, the Vatican has announced that they can't revoke the papal knighthood that Pope John Paul 11 gave Jimmy Savile in 1990 "because he's dead". Did you ever hear such a pathetic excuse? Until gay footballers feel safe to be honest about their sexuality, The Pink List has a role to play in promoting the freedom to express your sexuality.

The same is true of the role of women in our democracy. We have the vote, but no real power in Parliament, the judiciary or the police force. Last week, David Cameron was accused by a former senior civil servant of ignoring women in his inner clique, and a new study shows that we have slipped to 18th place from 16th in the international rankings on sexual equality, overtaken by Nicaragua and Luxembourg. Women might be controlling household budgets in the UK, but we have a toehold on real power. In the EU, only Azerbaijan and Armenia have fewer female judges. Woman's Hour has launched a campaign to find the UK's 100 most powerful women – only to be denigrated by some of the sisterhood, one of whom wrote that "it is a perfunctory women's magazine feature rebranded for the thinking man's crumpet". I disagree: the list will be flawed, it might be trivial, but it will highlight – as The Pink List does – that women have a long way to go down the road to true equality. Don't mention Hillary Clinton, Teresa May or Christine Lagarde; tell me there's a female running the Supreme Court, Tesco has a woman in charge and Cameron has honoured his promise to make a third of his Cabinet a different gender.

High society

My gay friends adore British and European champion diver Tom Daley – he's ranked at third in the calendar sales charts behind Justin Beiber and One Direction, and now we'll be seeing a lot more of the Olympic bronze medallist – he's been chosen to present Splash, a new ITV prime-time reality show. Based on a Dutch hit show. Celebrities are trained to dive against each other, and the public votes for its favourites as the hapless participants plunge into an Olympic-sized pool from a diving board. Could be painful! My reality television pedigree is substantial and varied – I've camped in the jungle, driven a taxi, delivered babies as a trainee midwife, taught nine-year-olds, and edited a magazine with a useless staff of celebs. But please count me out of this one, even if it means I get to spend screen time with Tom. Diving is one skill – like learning to change gear or speak Welsh – I am happy to live without.

Pavement power

Approaching my front door in central London means navigating clusters of gloomy smokers, who seem to feel they own the pavements. The narrow streets are covered with their unwanted droppings, and I'm thinking of writing a large sign on my front door announcing that "this is NOT a picnic area, a food wrapping depository or a smoking zone". Most offices have signs stating "no smoking within 20 yards of this doorway" – which moves smokers, their stink and their fag ends nearer to my patch. The mayor of Paris wants to increase fines for dropping cigarette butts to €68 (£42) and plans to provide 10,000 ashtrays screwed to litter bins throughout the city. Can you imagine trying to impose a fine here? I'm getting obsessed by filth: in the past three weeks I've rung Islington Council three times to get my little street cleaned, and I even chased a road sweeper down an alleyway the other day. He produced a faded photocopied map, but my road was not highlighted, so he walks past it. I hosed down the pavement to remove dog poo and human urine in September; now I'll get the broom out. The council sticks wrought-iron conservation signs on lampposts, but doesn't bother to empty the stinking drains or remove trash left by office workers lunching. I shall be making a deduction from my council tax.

Frank talking

Last weekend, I spent a morning with Frank Gehry, in his huge hanger of an office near the Marina in Venice, Los Angeles. We've known each other 30 years, and his drive and energy, at 83, are a constant source of inspiration and wonder. My only regret is that we Brits don't seem keen on commissioning his iconic buildings, preferring to desecrate the London skyline with second-rate crap like the Gherkin and The Shard. Frank showed me his plans for a new house – designed by his son – and a museum he's building for Louis Vuitton in Paris. In January, Larry Gagosian in Paris will be showing beautiful new fish lights designed by Frank; I wish I could afford one. Later, I visited the retrospective exhibition of Kenny Price's work – hopefully it will arrive in this country, because Price was one of the world's greatest ceramicists

Mad as a snake

The Foreign Office has spent £10,000 restoring a 19th-century stuffed anaconda, which hangs in its library. Apparently, the reptile was a gift, and had not been refurbished for over 40 years. We are closing and downgrading embassies around the world, and stuffing snakes instead – what a weird set of priorities.