I don't know if it's the optimistic young students, the seasonal nip in the air or just the smell of braziers and the sound of bongos, but everybody seems to be reminiscing at the moment about their first protest march. Mine was in 2004, against what was then only the Criminal Justice Bill. (Joke of the year: "What do the Home Secretary Michael Howard and a stork have in common?" The answer had to do with where they could both stick their bills.)
It all started altruistically as we saved the world from Tory oppression using only our plastic beads and dogs on strings, but then the police cornered a group of protesters, trapped them against Hyde Park's railings and rode horses at them very fast. The protesters panicked, reacted instinctively, grabbed sticks or litter and hurled them pathetically at the police. It was these images, of course, that appeared in the right-wing press.
The students I met on the train to London on their way to the anti-tuition fees march last Wednesday were 16, politically engaged, and impressively idealistic. If the governing coalition and the police want to turn them into anarchists overnight, I'd suggest lying to them, refusing them a voice, and then "kettling" them in Whitehall in the bitter cold for hours without access to a toilet. That ought to do it.
Question: How many Radio 2 listeners does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: Change?
But instead of carping about dumbing down and asking whatever happened to that poor Sarah Kennedy (er, she who joked that she nearly ran over a black man one dark night until he opened his mouth to yawn), how about we raise a cheer for Vanessa Feltz as the new host of Radio 2's early breakfast show and deputy to Jeremy Vine? On this year's Celebrity Big Brother Feltz proved herself a tireless pro, revealingly interviewing her fellow housemates without them even realising it.
She has a Cambridge degree and, even when she has a public breakdown, she does it using words such as "mislaid, distraught, restricted, incarcerated, ambushed, lampooned, crippled, disconsolate...." Whatever Feltz is, dumb doesn't come into it.