Foolish Emma. Why did she ever trust Mr Elton?

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Famous Sayings Of Prime Ministers:

Disraeli: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics."

Lloyd George: "What is our task? To make Britain a fit country for heroes to live in."

Churchill: "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."

Major: "What's that beautiful perfume you're wearing? It's lovely, do please tell me what it is."

Emma is the heroine of the hour, and I don't mean Emma Woodhouse, although Emma Nicholson's Major does bear some resemblance to Austen's vicar, Mr Elton. Both men achieve a dispiriting combination of hypocrisy and ineptitude.

Nicholson's book, Secret Society: Inside And Outside The Conservative Party (which was serialised this week in the Daily Mirror), gives us a bird's eye view of Tory shenanigans - but this bird can lip-read as well. She found that Major gloats behind closed doors on how he's hoodwinked his own backbenchers and bullies his party into clinging to power, they know not why. She compares them to "rent-boys", but this is unfair. I prefer to think Tory depravity is unequalled. The only question is why Nicholson ever had any faith in them.

Just as you can hardly read a page of Mandela's autobiography without weeping, you'd have to have a heart of stone not to read Nicholson's expose of British politics without laughing. She describes Mawhinney's "chilling array of tombstone teeth", claims that fellow MP Elaine Kellett-Bowman once punched her in the stomach for not voting with the Government, and that a certain Tory MP with a big car (or possibly all of them) can be found trailing "to and from his constituency several times in a weekend

What did go right for the Tories this week? They wheeled Norma out to show the warm tender side of politics. We were pelted with photographs of Norma in 1991 and Norma in 1996, and urged to find some improvement therein. She looked to me as scrawny and twitchy-eyed as ever. Eventually they returned her to the hangar, ready to be shown off again in another five years: Vintage Tory Housewife Rally 2001.

The whole country is essentially run by men whose emotional development ended at the age of eight when they were handed over to boarding-schools. It's amazing that parents still do this to little boys. But the British attitude to children is peculiar.

First you deprive them of sunlight, then you load them with wordy books without enough pictures (Orlando the Marmalade Cat was for a long time the stunning exception to this rule), then you deprive them of their liberty in single-sex establishments where girls learn to be bitchy and boys learn to be gay.

Not only do British children not have rights, they don't even have the right to think about their rights. I was once rebuked by a man for allowing his daughter to watch an Oprah Winfrey programme on children's rights. It had made her briefly rebellious.

The hysteria about paedophilia is all very well, but people continue to bang on about the benefits of violence against children, in the form of corporal punishment. They seem to think it's worse to look at a Mapplethorpe photograph of a semi-clad girl than to beat a child for a week until he's covered with wounds in need of medical treatment. What they fail to recognise is that paedophiles, as well as bad parents, love hitting children. And who can say whether being groped or beaten will prove the worse betrayal?

Never work with a sibling. Christmas is bad enough, with grown offspring retreating to their allotted family roles. Nowhere else in life does two or three years' difference in age cause so much havoc. Noel Gallagher says he wants Liam to grow up - "The law of averages says he can't go on being a knob for the rest of his life" - but Liam's never going to grow up if he has to obey orders from his brother every day.

Look at the Jacksons, the Carpenters, the Saatchis. It's not healthy. This seems to be what Liam is getting at when he says: "I ****ing hate that twat there, I ****ing hate him. And one day I hope I can smash **** out of him with a ****ing Rickenbacker right on his head."

The New York police have started attaching infra-red cameras to police dogs' collars, so that the dog can be sent ahead to check out suspect premises. The first time they tried it, they got a lot of close-up shots of some cookies. But dogs are very competent when they want to be. Our family dog, a brown standard poodle named Pepito, once led me as requested into the exact spot in the cemetery where he'd lost his collar (of which he was very fond).

Spurred on by a rereading of Kathleen Hale's Orlando (the Marmalade Cat) Keeps A Dog, which features a marvellous standard poodle, I called the Standard Poodle Refuge for abandoned standard poodles. Apparently these are not many, and I'm low on the list as a possible foster-owner since I have cats. As the woman explained, even if the poodle is used to certain cats, mine would be "the wrong cats". This is something I've long suspected, that I have the wrong cats. It's an easy mistake to make.

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