In office affairs there are losers, losers and losers

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CLAIRE Spottiswoode, the director-general of Ofgas, has been falsely accused of having an intimate relationship with a senior civil servant, in the course of which she pillow-talked him into recommending her for her current job. Ms Spottiswoode has fiercely denied these allegations, but if she had been snuggling up to someone with the power to promote her, it would hardly be surprising: it happens all the time.

Some people - the ones who are actually doing it - think snogging the boss should have no bearing on their performance or promotion prospects. Others - who are jealous because all they do at work is work - think it upsets proper power balances, and it's just so tedious having to file everything again when the lovers have been throwing documents at each other. The real point about it, however, is that it rarely does anyone any good.

Sensible bosses studiously avoid promoting their lovers in case other people get jealous. It is consequently unwise to have a long affair with a sensible person if you want to get on. If the junior lover does get promoted, everyone snipes that she (it still usually is a she) did it on her back. Admittedly, this is often a rather pathetic form of revenge by people who feel they must be less sexy than the promoted person, and are certainly less able to flounce around and slam doors at work. But pathetic or not, sometimes the insults stick. According to American psychologists, women who sleep with their bosses are considered adventuresses; women who sleep with subordinates are said (rather horribly) to be 'stud-farming'. Men are merely thought to be lacking self- control, and then probably only when the affair ends. But all in all, the smouldering glances across Styrofoam cups scarcely seem worth it. You're better off at a singles club.

THIS is supposed to be the multimedia age. We keep reading that we're on the verge of an almost limitless array of new channels, of satellite and cable and mystifyingly linked-up services that will make life endlessly pleasurable for anyone with access to a telephone, computer and television. But what is the reality of this existence devoted to electronic pleasure? Is it 70,000 films a year, and endless choice? No, it's ITV, which has just been criticised by the Independent Television Commission for being cautious and predictable; it's Carlton, also criticised by the ITC for being 'glib and superficial'; and it's GMTV, with its history of 'ineptly handled interviews' and unfulfilled promises.

If British companies are to compete globally, they clearly have to be of a certain size. But lately broadcasting seems to have lost all touch with programme-making (Carlton doesn't make any of its own) and become entirely about mergers and acquisitions. (Carlton did, however, recently acquire Central.) Take the case of London News Radio, which was set up to bid for the capital's commercial franchise, previously held by LBC. The new company won, with the result that LBC promptly went bust. And now, before London News Radio has even made a programme, it's been taken over by Reuters. The journalists, who, you might think, are what the station ought to be about, have been shuffled from one organisation to the other, while other people make money. They and their programmes don't seem to have much bearing on anything.

Big television stations similarly appear to see their smaller rivals as just so much fodder for expansion, with the result that the ITV network now seems to be controlled by about three people. Nigel Walmsley, who is the chairman of Carlton, also crops up as the chairman of GMTV (if I were Nigel, I'd keep as quiet as possible about this). As Andrew Davies pointed out in the Independent last week, all ITV drama commissioning now rests in the hands of two men. Under these tycoons, ITV has cut, by 12 per cent, the amount it planned to spend on programming this year. Carlton has screened only two of the 13 dramas promised in its franchise application. Granada, meanwhile, came out of the ITC review relatively well. It does still make its own programmes. Perhaps there's a moral here somewhere.

IN 1992, there were fewer assaults on police officers than in 1982. In 1992, one policeman was injured by a gun; in 1977, the figure was five. Admittedly, there has been an increase in violent crime, but it seems to have come principally from domestic disputes and fights at work. The 1992 British Crime Survey notes that street and pub brawls are down. And although the number of firearms being carried by criminals has risen, their use has not. I can only conclude that the police think they're having too easy a time of it, and that's why more police should carry guns.

What is really astonishing about this armed police policy is the support it has from the public. Every time I negotiate my way through the ring of plastic that now supposedly guards the City of London from the IRA (the plastic is faintly comical; the police officers standing over it with semi- automatics are not) I am convinced I am about to be shot. Instead of friendly approachable police officers, all I see is great big guns. If I were a criminal, I would get myself armed, and make sure I shot first.

ISABELLA Rossellini is to be sacked as the Face of Lancome, as soon as the cosmetics company can find a replacement. They have apparently decided that, at 41, Rossellini is too old. But the whole point about Isabella Rossellini is her age. She may be 41, but she looks 28. This is obviously, if you think about it, an act of nature; but there's always that sneaking suspicion that it could just be an act of Lancome. This is why millions of women buy their overpriced, overpackaged face creams, on the off-chance that we could just end up looking like Isabella on a spotty day.

Some strange killer bug must have got into Lancome's corporate reasoning processes. No one's going to buy face creams that only promise to make you look the age you really are.