Which one are you - a chav or a snob?

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One of the accusations made against the Government's plans to liberalise gambling is that Labour's socialist forefathers would be horrified. The closest Tessa Jowell can come to rebutting this is to suggest that those who don't like the idea of widespread gambling are driven by "snobbery".

One of the accusations made against the Government's plans to liberalise gambling is that Labour's socialist forefathers would be horrified. The closest Tessa Jowell can come to rebutting this is to suggest that those who don't like the idea of widespread gambling are driven by "snobbery".

Socialists believed in self-improvement. But New Labour doesn't appear to. Instead it believes in allowing people to make their own choices, protecting them not in the least from the follies their vulnerability might lead them to, but punishing them severely when disaster strikes.

To a degree, this is the correct way for a free society to operate. The old paternalistic ideas promulgated by a ruling elite (even a socialist one) patronised ordinary people, and treated them like children who could not be trusted. Now, though, the backlash against elitism, along with the drive to excoriate those who cannot cope with intense freedom of choice, is shaping a narrow popular culture defined by its accessibility and policed only when this accessibility leads to absurd extremes.

Some social commentators complain that snobbery, far from being absent in our meritocratic society, is more widespread than ever. They point to the swift, unashamed adoption of the word "chav" to denote the type of ignorant, crass oik that no one wants to live next door to, as evidence that they are right.

They are. But this is only half the story. More or less anyone who is not a chav is a snob. Anyone who thinks that casino gambling is a waste of time and money is a snob. Anyone who thinks that soap operas are third rate is a snob. Anyone who thinks that celebrity culture is moronic is a snob. Yet anyone who actually embodies all of this supposedly valuable "culture" is a chav, and is ripe for ridicule. Frankly, it doesn't leave an awful lot of room for manoeuvre.

* One salient point is not being fully appreciated during the debate around revealing previous convictions in some trials. This is that the changes are at least in part designed to dissuade repeat offenders who cynically plead not guilty in the knowledge that they can tell elaborate lies to a jury that might just get them off. Millions of pounds are eaten up putting to trial those who know that they are guilty, and know this will become obvious when their record is revealed. This issue is finally being addressed, and that is excellent.

As for the fear that the police might "fit up" those it knows have committed similar crimes before - this is a quite different issue. It should be tackled separately by ending the unhappy situation under which the police police themselves. They are even less successful at convicting their errant colleagues than they are at catching other criminals. Neither poor record does anything for public confidence in the criminal justice system.

¿ Coleen McLoughlin's only claim to fame is that she is the girlfriend of the talented young footballer Wayne Rooney. So why is it that celebrity photographers follow the teenager's every move? It's because the young woman is knee-deep in her partner's unaccustomed wealth, cash she tends to spend freely and without much discernment.

Pictures of Coleen in expensive but unflattering outfits are in demand because people enjoy sneering at her poor taste and laughing at the lack of subtlety in her take in conspicuous consumption. Thus is envy ameliorated - with consoling tales about money not bringing happiness, and cash not buying style.

The former I'll agree with. Money does not bring happiness. It is poverty that brings unhappiness - quite a different thing. I can't agree with the latter, though. Coleen simply isn't spending enough yet. By the time she's wised up to her laughing-stock status, given up dressing herself, and got her own Carole Caplin, the lass will be looking lovely.

She won't please everyone. These days, one person's style icon is another person's lady of the night manquée. (Step forward Victoria Beckham.) But that only adds to the fun. When Coleen has shed a few pounds at the gym, and become some stylist's clothes horse, the celebrity papers will start pretending that they preferred her old natural look, and didn't for a minute mean to drive her into cloned, honed, toned perfection in the first place. Then they'll get on with the serious business of scrutinising every other part of her private life, in order to prove that you can take the girl out of wherever it is she's from, but you can't take wherever it is she's from out of the girl.

Happy days. If all this isn't your idea of top-quality entertainment, then Tessa Jowell, styled by Barbara Follett, will be delighted to explain why this makes you a snob.

This degree of silkiness is in a class of its own

Who could possibly have imagined, during all those tedious years he spent on our television screens attempting vainly to engage us, that Robert Kilroy-Silk was such fantastic entertainment value?

Long considered to be the most arrogant man in Britain, the finely chiselled one has surpassed himself in recent months as he pushed all boundaries in his attempts to illustrate to the world just what sort of reductio ad absurdum a really narcissistic personality could achieve if given its head.

It all started fairly modestly. Mr Kilroy-Silk wrote an article pointing out the dreadfulness of people who were not at all like him (in the first instance, Arabs). Relieved from his job at the BBC for his pains, he spread his wings a little, and targeted people not quite like him (pro-Europeans).

Then, having got himself elected as an MEP under the auspices of the UK Independence Party, he noticed that even people very similar to him (fellow party members) didn't quite measure up. He insisted that they should make him their leader, and when they refused, withdrew from the gang.

Now Mr Kilroy-Silk is an independent MEP, representing only himself. Finally, he has realised that there is nobody at all who is really very much like Mr Kilroy-Silk at all. Arabs, Europeans, Little Englanders - all are repulsively lacking in Kilroy-Silkiness. At last the limits of the great man's prejudices have been clearly mapped out. How lonely perfection must be.

I believe there was no justification for the cruel and vengeful bombing of Dresden. But this is not the time for the Queen to apologise. How can Britain say sorry for this deed when it is assisting in the delivery of similarly appalling murder to the civilians of another country at this very moment? Hypocritical apologies, when nothing has really been learnt, are the last thing that is needed.