Britain may be a tardy convert to the political leadership debate, but we're giving everyone else a run for their money now.
Latest up are the five candidates to head the Labour Party, and scarcely an evening seems to pass but they are strutting their stuff on some platform somewhere. I was at London's Institute of Education to witness a recent stand-off. But what the chairwoman, Gaby Hinsliff, introduced as the latest episode of Labour's Got Talent rapidly descended into a something more like a re-make of Three Men and a Baby. Except there were four men, an awful lot of babies, and a bemused Diane Abbott in the middle.
The question had related to the lack of women in the upper echelons of the Labour Party and glanced towards Yvette Cooper's decision not to stand against her husband, Ed Balls. But the discussion soon turned – how could it not? – to the difficulty of combining a senior role in politics with babies. It was as though the playpen gate had been thrown open. The four men positively fell over each other to vaunt their infatuation with their offspring.
"I've a one-year-old," said Ed Miliband," beaming indulgently. His elder brother, David (who has been Foreign Secretary, remember, and a few other things, too), spoke of his hopes that the contest would be suspended through August so they could all enjoy some family-time. "I'm going on holiday," chirped brother Ed, hand in the air; another "Me, too" and another hand from Yvette's husband. "But not together," they chorused.
Andy Burnham, who is otherwise running on the hard-left ticket, jumped in with an encomium to The Family that would have done the soft-right proud. How hard it was, he lamented, to be away from his little ones for even a day. There was general cooing about how quickly they grow up, how you miss their crucial moments and how the new rules on second homes (yes, they're not letting that go) might discourage women from becoming MPs, because of the late-night sittings...
"Ah diddums" almost escaped my lips, but I didn't want to abuse the hospitality of the benevolent Fabians. But this toddler love-fest was being allotted far more time than it strictly deserved. What these four men needed was to be reminded that they were not standing for "new father of the year", even with Father's Day imminent, but for the leadership of the Labour Party. Is it likely that a female candidate would have been drooling over her progeny as they were?
Not that they weren't full of bright ideas – such as allowing those with family responsibilities to vote from home. But I've a better idea. Now that Cabinet meetings are held later, so that the PM and his deputy (attentive fathers both) can take their children to school, how about Parliament working regular hours? As I recall, a Commons bar was expensively converted into a crèche, so childcare isn't the problem. But re-timing the sittings remains a reform too far. Alternative Voting – maybe; civilised debating hours – well, no.
My suspicion is that the men secretly like the male dominance that returns to the corridors of power after dark. They should stop dissembling and acknowledge the truth. You don't actually have to sit late into the night, boys. If you put your mind to it, you can be home for bath-time.
WAGs, where are you when we need you?
I'm really missing something during this World Cup, and I suspect the England players are, too. Where, oh where are the WAGs? I know Fabio Capello banned them, when he took the England job, along with all the showbiz of his predecessor-but-one – though it's been strange, has it not, to watch an Italian and a Swede swapping national stereotypes? But there was something at once diverting and absurd about the WAGs that neither Sex and the City (1 or 2), nor the latest re-run of Footballers' Wives can replace. Maybe with the John Terry affair – leave aside the sordid details – life came too dangerously close to imitating art. And maybe, with the WAGs there, England would still have drawn their first match. I can't help feeling, though, that pictures of the WAGs returning with bursting bags from, say, the suburban malls of Johannesburg, or bartering for fish by the sea, or blowing on bejewelled vuvuzelas from the VIP box would be a bonus, not only for South African tourism, but for the general gaiety of our nation, too.
If you leave us our Uggs, you can keep the braces
If you are decked out (feet upwards) in gladiator sandals, harem pants, a tuxedo, big sunglasses and a headband, you are the poster-girl for everything men hate about this year's women's fashions, according to a survey by MSN. All too obviously, of course, the items in question – which also include Ugg boots and leggings – are those which might be said to diverge most from a traditional model of femininity.
For my part, I will take care never to be seen in most of what is on the list, but I will defend to the death another girl's right to do so – also, in the spirit of equality, a girl's right to compile her own list of most-hated menswear. So here goes:
Braces, usually red, that are for macho display, not function; surf pants (the wrong length for anything except surfing); gangsta pants (I agree with Barack); pressed denims (that's not what denim is for); shirts worn open-neck when they really need a tie; suit jackets with jeans (a pseudo-toff affectation); trainers anywhere off the track; Batik (keep it for the Tropics); double-vented jackets (yes, your bottom does look big in this); and finally... the baseball cap, even worn right-way round.