We should thank Posh and Becks for providing such good gossip

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The Independent Online

It's always difficult for the quality press when a tabloid story, unworthy of serious comment, nevertheless seizes the attention of a large swathe of the population. Under such circumstances, it becomes clear that the story does have something to say about the national psyche, even if that something is not very nice. The something, in the case of Posh and Becks, appears to be that celebrity culture exists so that the vast majority of us can indulge in the unhealthy human tendency towards gossiping maliciously, without actually feeling any guilt that we may be hurting real people with real difficulties.

It's always difficult for the quality press when a tabloid story, unworthy of serious comment, nevertheless seizes the attention of a large swathe of the population. Under such circumstances, it becomes clear that the story does have something to say about the national psyche, even if that something is not very nice. The something, in the case of Posh and Becks, appears to be that celebrity culture exists so that the vast majority of us can indulge in the unhealthy human tendency towards gossiping maliciously, without actually feeling any guilt that we may be hurting real people with real difficulties.

Posh and Becks, by posing on the ski slopes this week as if they didn't have a care in the world, only helped to reinforce this idea. They did this, poor things, not because they are invincible, of course, but because they are not terribly bright.

The media coverage has largely concentrated on deciding which of the two of them is to blame for the situation they are now in. At the same time it condemns the woman at the centre of the allegations, Rebecca Loos, while simultaneously paying her a large amount of money.

The broad consensus, even though it is Mr Beckham who has been accused of infidelity, is that it is all Posh's fault, for being shallow, talentless and artificial. Her parasitic ambition is legion. Her designer labels are common. Her frown is permanent. Her records are pants. And who's she trying to kid with those breasts?

She caused nothing but trouble between Becks and Alex Ferguson. She promised she would be following him to Real Madrid. And then she stayed in Britain, instead of moving to Spain, so that she could desperately service the pathetic fantasy that she has a career as well. Frankly, she was asking for trouble.

But Becks? Well, say what you like about him, but you can't deny that he can kick a ball. And wear a captain's armband. And promote stuff. And make money. Anyway, even if he has played away a bit, it's nothing, is it, compared to what a lot of those other footballers are doing?

Quite a number of girls have claimed that they enjoyed some sort of sexual encounter with Becks. But the lovely thing is they claim to have been in one-to-one, consensual situations. No roasting. No dogging. No allegations of rape. No bruises. Only a real gentleman, like Becks, could be expected to show such restraint.

The nearest anyone comes to defending Victoria is to suggest that he's just as bad as she is. This school says that they're welcome to each other. Vain as anything, with their grooming and their jewellery and their endless designer duds. Crude as anything, with their matching tattoos and their embarrassing photocalls. Utterly exploitative, with their children thrust into the spotlight, used as an accessory just like a pair of sunglasses or a cut on the eyebrow.

In the end, this attitude is preferable to the one which blames only Posh, simply because it justifies the fact that both of them are being pursued. This argument runs that they have lost the right to privacy by chasing the headlines in the way that they do. Because these two are constantly in our faces, they deserve what they get. After all, they're paid enough.

What nobody seems so terribly keen to admit is that, whether or not the couple "brought it on themselves", they are still being exploited by everyone who has taken even the most oblique of interests in the saga.

Even tut-tutting about how awful it is is an enjoyable human reaction, generously provided by Posh and Becks. We shouldn't be condemning them. We should be thanking them, and, of course, leaving them in peace now to sort themselves out and to get their family back on track. Whoops. Too late for that. Never mind.

The chips are down for Tessa...

See the lovely Ms Tessa Jowell, stretched across a gaming table and smiling for the camera in an effort to promote her plans to liberalise Britain's gaming laws. Ms Jowell considers gambling to be "a popular leisure activity enjoyed in many forms by millions of people". As such, she believes, it is something that can be utilised more vigorously as a method of parting the millions from their money.

These plans received a bit of a setback last week, when the Joint Commons and Lords committee charged with scrutinising Ms Jowell's proposed legislation came up with recommendations for no fewer than 139 little changes. Their main problem appears to be an odd belief that gambling is not the healthy family pastime that Ms Jowell - whose own hobbies include cake-making - considers it to be. They are worried that a huge expansion of gaming facilities in Britain may lead to "problem gambling".

Therefore, they reject the huge-casino-in-every-town dream beloved of the Culture Secretary. Instead they suggest that such edifices should only be erected in areas which need regeneration. By creating new markets in areas that have lost their old industries, inward investment can be attracted and jobs created.

There is another advantage also. It is the poor and desperate, rather than the rich and comfortable, who tend to be vulnerable to the chimeral attractions of gambling. This way, they'll be living conveniently on the doorsteps of all the new casinos. Nowhere, surely, can the law of supply and demand be better illustrated.

My wedding would not have convinced Mr Blunkett

Marriage registrars are reported to be begging David Blunkett for the right to stop marriages they suspect of being fake. They claim that in many cases people "don't hold hands, there's no bodily contact. They sit facing the other way, they flinch when they kiss." Could registrars really be empowered to stop weddings just because the kissing isn't up to scratch though? It all sounds highly unworkable.

Or maybe I'm just bruised by the knowledge that my own perfectly sincere wedding didn't even convince close family members. At the end of an admittedly austere Scottish registry office wedding, I thought it was time to breathe a sign of relief and start celebrating. My step-daughter and bridesmaid, then four, had other ideas.

Having thus far in her life attended only church weddings, the civil ceremony confused her. At the point of kissing, she declared in a loud, disappointed voice: "When's the real wedding?" If the registrars had their way, this outburst would be suspicious indeed. Instead, it made our day.

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