Simmy Richman: Rant & Rave (07/11/10)


"There are no grades of vanity, there are only grades of ability to conceal it," wrote Mark Twain, whose autobiography has finally been published, 100 years after his death, just as he insisted. And who doesn't attempt to conceal those aspects of themselves – jealousy, greed, pot belly (look at me, sucking it in over here) – that they find most unappealing? Who doesn't? I'll tell you who doesn't: those who feel themselves above the laws of fake-but-heartfelt humility the rest of us abide by.

The private vanity of three such men was made public last week. And while one might expect such behaviour from Prince Jefri, the 56-year-old brother of the Sultan of Brunei (who owns bronze likenesses of himself in various sexual positions) and Silvio Berlusconi (who apparently has a marble statue of himself as Superman at his villa), our Prime Minister should know better. Cameron, it turns out, has just found £35,000 of spare public funds to hire Andrew Parsons to be his "vanity photographer" – news that would be irritating at the best of times, but is horrifying in the light of the cuts we are all facing.

One Labour backbencher went as far as to compare Camera-on's act of vanity to Caligula making his horse a senator. Rome burns on, but at least our leader will be looking his best.


Hit by higher university fees, stripped of our right to child benefit and betrayed by the only political party with our interests written into its DNA, has there ever been a worse time to be middle class? The posh have their privilege, the working class their heroes, but we in between have long been poorly represented. So it was with my surburban roots proudly showing that I made my way to the launch of The Middle Class Handbook last week.

Once there, it was especially pleasing to discover that this "field guide to Britain's new middle-class tribes" is, in the words of co-editor Richard Benson, "a big, warm hug" and not another kick in the stripey-socked shins. Though Benson might just have revealed something of his own roots when he asked the canapé waiter with the goujons for another "mini fish finger".