All parents can learn something from Maxine's mum and Mel's dad

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The Independent Online

In a recent survey, it was discovered that a staggering 80 per cent of correspondents considered their mother and father's memories of their first kiss to have been the most embarrassing thing they have ever heard. In another, it was revealed that 60 per cent of young people cannot imagine greater mortification than their parents singing and dancing in public.

Once, as a teenager, I would have identified with such nonsense. Now, as a parent, I am appalled by it. These children do not know the meaning of embarrassment. Their parents quite clearly have trodden so lightly over the delicate ids of their offspring that they barely realise they are born. They are not, it is safe to say, the children of Hutton Gibson.

Mr Gibson is the 85-year-old father of the Australian heart-throb Mel Gibson, who is looking forward to the release in America next week of his new film, The Passion Of Christ. Mel's movie has run into some problems, though. Not only is it rumoured to be an endlessly exploitative gore-fest, cashing in on the murder of Christ by selling pendants in the shape of "Crucifixion-style" nails, it also stands accused of anti-Semitism.

Now, whatever one's view on the all-too-frequent bandying around of this accusation, one thing is certain. Vehement denial is definitely the best policy under all circumstances. Gibson Jnr was therefore quick off the mark in distancing himself from such smears.

Gibson Snr, however, has a different defensive strategy, and has gone on US radio to indulge in some flamboyantly robust Holocaust denial.

"They claimed there were 6.2 million Jews in Poland before the war and after the war there were 200,000. Therefore Hitler must have killed six million of them. They simply got up and left! They were all over the Bronx and Brooklyn and Sydney, Australia and Los Angeles," he said.

Nor is there any hope of wiggling out of this parlous situation by suggesting that Dad has gone a bit ga-ga. Gibson joined a breakaway Catholic group in 1956, at the time when Vatican II declared that Jewish people were not to be held collectively responsible for the death of Christ. His track record as one of the most embarrassing fathers ever is clearly a long one.

What makes this an extraordinary week though is the fact that a potentially embarrassing mother has emerged as well. Shirley Capp, maternal guide to Maxine Carr, has, it turns out, been charged with intimidating a witness at the Soham murder trial.

Marian Elizabeth Westerman testified that she has seen Ms Carr weeping after looking into the boot of Ian Huntley's car. This, suggested the prosecution, was proof that Ms Carr had known about the fate of the girls. Far from it, countered the defence. Ms Carr was indeed crying at the loss of Holly and Jessica, as so many people did, but she did not at that time know anything about her lover's involvement. I was perfectly happy to swallow this, and so was the jury. Now though, I'm beginning to wonder.

Maxine Carr, still serving her sentence, is said to want nothing more than to return to the bosom of her mother. Interestingly though, since Ms Capp's alleged crime is a serious one, the two women could find themselves passing each other at the gates to Holloway.

Unpalatable as it may seem, parents can learn something from these two. Telling off-colour anecdotes, wearing unseemly clothing, dancing, singing, laughing, breathing: All these may be anathema to our children. But as parents we know that only one thing really counts in the embarrassment stakes, and that's knowing when to leave your children to fight their own battles.

Private self-help is real public interest

Naomi Campbell doesn't sound like an awfully nice woman. In a short gossip item yesterday, the Daily Mirror described her as "stroppy", "ill-tempered" and "a diva" because she had "left the Brits organisers in the lurch by refusing to present an award" and "pulled out" of a fashion show 90 minutes before the start. A good excuse would be needed before cancelling at such short notice, and the Mirror's report suggested no knowledge of any circumstances that could have made recent days stressful for the model.

But another story in the paper tells a different tale. Ms Campbell has been appearing in the House of Lords this week, in a landmark case. She is contesting the Court of Appeal's decision to uphold none other than the Daily Mirror's claim that the disclosure of the model's visits to Narcotics Anonymous meetings was in the public interest. This case "will be final clarification of how far the media can claim justification through public interest for publishing private details".

It may also be "final clarification" of how thoroughly gossip journalists can be allowed to infiltrate and damage self-financing organisations that have a proven track record in helping millions of addicted people.

Only one of those millions is Naomi Campbell. But the Mirror's campaign against her is also a campaign against the whole concept of NA.

The Mirror says Ms Campbell is hypocritical, because she lied in public about her addiction. It's hypocritical as well to consider the defence of one day's newspaper exclusive as more important than the individual's right to privately and anonymously seek group therapy for their mental illness.

Mr Blair does not lie since he always knows the truth

I'm not one of those people who thinks that our Prime Minister is deliberately mendacious. Instead, I cringe every time I see that strident logo proclaiming "Bliar".

Our leader, I'm sure, is impervious to such criticism, because he knows it is not true. Or he thinks he does anyway. Mr Blair does not lie to us any more than he lies to himself.

Mr Blair feels no guilt about the lengths he had to go to in his attempts to urge an unwilling nation into war. Whatever the other reasons that had to be given to satisfy international law, the armed forces, Parliament, and so on, the fact was that Mr Blair was ridding a nation of an evil leader and that this was in itself a good thing.

He probably doesn't mind this new barrage of criticism that is hitting him now either. Again, despite the views of experts, and of the electorate, Mr Blair feels he knows best. Whatever the nay-sayers burble on about, they don't seem to understand that GM food will end world hunger.

Never mind that Mr Blair cannot possibly know whether the results of a new American-sponsored war in the Middle East will actually have benign results. Never mind that he has no way of knowing whether GM crops will herald a new era of feast or a dustbowl full of famine.

Mr Blair is entirely confident in his certainties. He sleeps at night because his intentions are always, always good. Sadly, good intentions are also just what the road to hell is paved with. But they make Mr Blair's tread more eager, not more cautious.

*#149; Maggots are now available on the NHS, to be placed on wounds so they can eat dead tissue and destroy bacteria. Completely free. And it gets better. The maggots come with accessories. A maggot pouch - "like a teabag" - is available for the use of more squeamish patients. So no more complaints about hospital grub. You are the hospital grub.