The politician's best friend is a silent sibling

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The Independent Online
I HAVE been enjoying Terry Major-Ball's autobiography, Major Major, serialised last week in the Daily Mail. It provides a vivid insight into the formation of a prime minister: how the brothers' grandfather was found sawing off a tree branch while sitting on the wrong side of the cut; how their father was accidentally drafted into the Uruguayan army . . .

The important moments in John's own life include Mrs Major- Ball losing her rag when some German POWs tried to teach him the Nazi salute, and how John tried - and failed - to save the family hamster. With brothers like this, who needs enemies? Which makes me wonder whether Terry Major-Ball can really be who he says he is. He must, at least, be the author of Private Eye's 'Secret Diary of John Major'.

On the other hand, prime ministerial and presidential brothers do come worse. Roger Clinton is an ex-coke head with rock star pretensions. Paolo Berlusconi has just been arrested, after going on the run, to face bribery charges. This does not augur well for their siblings. Think what happened to Jimmy Carter, whose brother Billy, besides having Libyan business connections, was so notorious for drink that he had a beer named after him. Or think of Sir Alec Douglas-Home, whose brother, an author of bedroom farces, had been a conscientious objector.

All of which throws new light on Mrs Thatcher's longevity. Throughout the 11 years of her leadership, her sister Muriel remained in discreet obscurity.

PROFESSOR Anthony Clare, psychiatrist to the stars, is back on Radio 4. First in the chair was the transatlantic superstar Joanna Lumley. Double goodie, I thought. At last the actress will name the father of her grown-up child.

Why I'm Nothing Like Patsy, began Joanna. She continued with What It's Like Being Stopped In Sainsbury's. Halfway through, she began blathering on about spirituality and life after death. And then it was over. No boy talk. No Sixties' freak-outs. Not even a probette into the child.

An aberration, I thought, like Clare's dead-end session with Geoffrey Boycott. 'Why did you agree to do the programme,' exclaimed the Professor, after getting nowhere at all. 'Because my publisher said it would sell my book,' came the reply.

Last week's session with Bernie Grant was sure to be a cracker. 'The education and freedom of thought that one has is peculiar to the English-speaking world,' explained Bernie, gently. 'British colonisation was different from others. They allowed a lot more development of the people themselves, politically and otherwise, than in some of the other colonising countries.'

All slightly surprising, coming from a black Labour MP, but hardly the gut-spilling we have come to expect from radio psychiatry. Where were the tearful memories of an unhappy childhood (Claire Rayner), the dark days of alcohol abuse (Anthony Hopkins), the relished admission of child- hating (Jimmy Saville)?

Clare has obviously lost his touch. Now that the emperor has been disrobed, his psychological probing appears nothing more than a showman's tricks. 'I sense . . .' he's always proclaiming, grandly, when he really means, 'I think . . .' His questions usually involve repeating the subject's previous answer. Clare: 'Where were you born?' Subject: 'London.' Clare: 'London?'

Reluctant as I am to admit it, the current star of the radio interview is Sue Lawley, who has become a kind of anti-psychiatrist: her talent is disguising rude challenges as cosy fluff.

DAZ is the most unpopular commercial on British television, according to a random survey of 1,000 consumers published in Marketing magazine. The hate-list continues: Tango, BT, Persil, Guinness, Tampax, Pampers and, in equal ninth place, Ariston and Nescafe Gold Blend.

My nomination is the new Magnum ad, on two counts. First, for naming a choc-ice after a handgun - a mite unnecessary because even the gorgeous, pouting, ice cream-licking babe in the advert must by now know the meaning of 'phallic symbol'. Second, for scoring an F in female psychology: 'I feel aggressive and relaxed all at the same time,' exclaims The Babe. Even Professor Clare knows that eating a choc-ice makes a girl feel guilty and fat.

PLAYMATE of the century Anna Nicole Smith - 26, 38D-27-39 - has married the oil tycoon J Howard Marshall II (89, 36-36- 36?). 'I know people are saying that I married him for his money,' declared Ms Smith, 'but that's not true. I love him. I'm not after his money. I would never marry for money.'

I am getting married next weekend, and am worried about the usual things: bickering parents; rain; frizzy hair; pre-menstrual water retention; crying too much; not crying enough; blackheads; refusing to let go of the posy; looking as fat as I did at my sister's wedding (huge photos on pinboards forever more); the fungus that seems to be creeping along the sole of my left foot.

Now I'm worried about my speech coming out all wrong, like Anna Nicole Smith's: 'I know people are saying that I married him for his muscles, but that's not true. I love him. I'm not after his muscles. I would never marry for muscles.' If so, I apologise in advance.

THE SEARCH is on for the terrorist who bombed the Israeli embassy. According to the Daily Express, the police are looking for a woman who is 'sophisticated and very cool . . . comfortable in the Knightsbridge-Kensington area'. Miranda Richardson in The Crying Game, perhaps? The stiletto-clad nymphette in Nikita?

The Telegraph, by contrast, reports that the police are looking for a bit of a frump: 55 to 60 years old, spectacles, dark blue suit. To confuse matters more, the police sketch looks like Roy Orbison. No wonder the police arrested David Bailey's wife in Harrods during the search for baby Abbie.

Geraldine Bedell is on holiday.