Alice Jones: What do Gordon Brown and Juliette Binoche have in common?

The Saturday Column
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The Independent Online

It's the end of the summer; sun and holidays are but a distant memory, cuts and autumnal austerity a gloomy, looming threat.

The Government is in disarray, thrashing about in a web of wicked whispers. Our heroic cricketing victory has been tarnished with scandal and, to top it off, you-know-who is back, blazing his zealous, blue-eyed trail through our television studios and bookshops. As starts of term go, it's enough to make anyone fractious.

Even so, the quantity of feuds, sniping and backbiting on display this week is surely unprecedented. This (end-of-) summer of discontent first reared its ugly head in the shape of Gérard Depardieu. In a strangely ill-judged swap of sangfroid for bad blood, the actor launched into an unprovoked attack on his compatriot and colleague Juliette Binoche in an interview with an Austrian magazine last week. He ranted: "Tell me, what is Juliette Binoche's secret? I wonder why she has been so respected for so many years." And he raved: "What's she ever had going for her? She has nothing and is absolutely nothing." Well, nothing except talent, great beauty and an Oscar, but who's counting, Gérard? For her part, Binoche can only recall meeting Depardieu once, over dinner, where he accused her of "always making beautiful films" – for which, clearly, she merits only our bile and condemnation.

It's come to something when even that most enigmatic of species, the French actor, is shooting his mouth off in public. And Depardieu is not alone. The spectacle of Tony Blair battering Gordon Brown in every newspaper, and on every news channel, mere months after a humiliating election defeat has been, at best unpalatable, at worst unwatchable. No one expected Blair to omit their feud from his memoirs but "emotional intelligence – zero", "a strange guy"? It's not so much stabbing Brown in the back as slapping him around the chops with a wet kipper, then shooting him in the face – at close range. Nor is there any sign that Labour has learned from its mistakes as the Milibrothers' sibling squabbling slowly but surely ramps up into a full-blown slanging match.

At the risk of coming over a bit Debrett's, whatever happened to decorum? There's an unpleasant lack of grace, not to mention professionalism, in all of this mudslinging. This week, Depardieu and Blair seem to have mislaid the mute button on their internal remote controls. What should have been personal grievances have become inappropriate public outpourings.

That we live in age of rampant, unbridled self-disclosure is an increasingly heard lament. The comedian Sean Lock's assessment of Twitter as being "for people who can't be quiet, even when they're on their own" is just about right. Every thought and titbit, however half-formed or unsubstantiated, finds its way to Facebook or Twitter. The internet seethes with angry comment threads and vitriolic bloggers as everyone demands the right to reply, to share their opinions – at once and at length. Sound and fury have become the default setting. When Kevin Pietersen was dropped from the England cricket team this week, his foul-mouthed rant against the selectors was played out in front of his 41,768 followers on Twitter, and thence the world's media. Once upon a time, in the hazy golden days of the gentleman's game, it might have been confined to the changing room, or even the home. The same impulse to over-share lies behind William Hague's extraordinarily personal and detailed statement about his marriage this week. Too much information, not enough thought.

Both men ought to have looked to Brown and Binoche. An unlikely pairing if ever there was one, but in a week defined by noisy, graceless yelling both have shown that a dignified silence can speak volumes. Even in this babbling, tell-all, hyper-confessional age, Brown has refrained from commenting on the attacks in Blair's book directly, instead setting out – in impersonal, professional and considered terms – what he plans to do post-power, including a great deal of pro-bono work. Perhaps he realises that in the end politicians are judged not on what they say, but on what they do.

Binoche, on the other hand, has taken her time, eventually responding to Depardieu with typically measured mystique. When asked if she thought that the actor might be jealous of her, she simply replied, ""Who knows?" and gave, bof, an insouciant shrug. Sometimes actions speak louder than words.

A bit of a sense of humour failure among female comedians

Have you heard the one about men being funnier than women? There's a row simmering in the stand-up world over an article published on the comedy website Chortle this week. An analysis of the 273 shows reviewed by Chortle at this year's Edinburgh Fringe revealed that, on average, female shows received 3.04 stars out of five, while male shows racked up 3.27 stars. So it's official, men are, err, 0.23 stars funnier than women.

Predictably, this rather unscientific claim has caused outrage among the stand-up sisterhood. Katy Brand derided it as "the most insultingly pointless survey into this now tired subject I have ever seen". Josie Long tweeted: "I don't know how much more of this shit I can take!"

I've written several times about the appalling sexism which still infects the macho stand-up scene but this latest bout of hand-wringing grates. The survey was little more than a flippant, geeky exercise in statistics, a bit of fun. Female stand-ups need to pick their battles: what of the fact that of those 273 shows reviewed, less than 22 per cent featured women? Nobody's seriously doubting that female stand-ups are funny, but such po-faced responses to an off-the-cuff blog suggest a few of them might be lacking a sense of humour.

I think we're about to suffer a bout of morning sickliness

I watched the final 15 minutes of GMTV yesterday. And apart from making me feel old – I remember TV-am being replaced by GMTV in 1993 – it made me feel sad. It looks as though things can only go downhill from here. The much-heralded replacement, Daybreak, features chummy Brummie Adrian Chiles and WAG Christine Bleakley and therefore will probably feature an awful lot more synthetic, cloying "chemistry" than current affairs. The trailer for Daybreak ends with Chiles standing in his boxer shorts wondering whether he should wear trousers for Monday's big launch. Really, ITV? If this is the bright new face of breakfast television, then thank heavens for the Today programme.