Lambeth needs more rainbows and fewer shark attacks

1 April 2006

Television Society Awards. Grosvenor, Park Lane. Wore little white dress, big black bow, quite low neckline. Tripped over own handbag on way into hotel. Awkward frock moment. Think I got away with it. Not sure anyone noticed.

Calls for more rainbows and fewer shark attacks in Lambeth. The council has come up with a New Inishativ, nicknamed — by me — Operation Crayon. They have asked the under-fives — by way of a letter home from nursery — to ‘draw improvements they would like to see made to the borough’. Astonishingly, their drawings did not focus principally on the spiralling costs of council tax nor the pitiful collection of litter. In the main, the young of Lambeth demanded to see fewer Angry Mothers, more Sunny Days, and a substantial increase in Curly Chimney Smoke. Democracy, they say, is a messy business. Particularly with finger paint.

But next time you consider the idiosyncrasies of the system in the Palestinian elections or indeed Iran, spare a thought for the poor voters of south London who may find council policy dictated by their own toddlers.

Pondering the need for a male sexual revolution. The National Center for Men (yes, only America would have one) suggests the time has come for a Roe v. Wade-type landmark ruling which would give men ‘the freedom to enjoy lovemaking without the fear of forced procreation’ — if the word ‘lovemaking’ doesn’t put them off sex altogether, I can’t help feeling. Debate has been sparked there by a man whose partner told him she was infertile and on contraception and then got pregnant. If he’d been brighter, perhaps alarm bells would have rung a little earlier. He wasn’t, they didn’t, and he now argues he shouldn’t have to pay child maintenance.


Is he a bad father and a feckless philanderer?

Audiences on Kilroy, Question Time and Trisha know the answer off pat. ‘Put the welfare of the child fiiirst,’ they bray as one. Such instant moral high ground is more catechism than argument. But for once, let’s hear it for the poor parent. Giving Bad Dad (as we shall call him generically and a little unjustly) the legal opt-out not only seems fair to him but could ultimately allow another desperate mother-to-be, the Frozen Embryoed Natalie Evans, the child she so desperately wants without ruining her ex-boyfriend’s life in the process.

Last day at BBC London. A strange umbilical cord to cut, this one. Do they think I’m a control freak? I only mention, as they have asked what I’d like in my leaving video and who I would like them to take off rota to make it. But this has been my home for the last four years. The place I first exchanged blows with that English rose Bob Crow; the place I elicited the first confession from Tony Blair that he had got anything wrong; the place in which I became so mesmerised by Alistair Darling’s eyebrows that I was rendered too speechless to ask him a follow-up question; the place George Galloway MP has called the home of ‘that Programme in All its Hideousness’. The spiral staircase down which we once manoeuvred a Dalek live on air, the tropical fish tank that always seemed to have a BBC biro floating at the bottom of it (oh please, don’t mention the licence fee). I feel bloody lucky. There has never been a day when it was a drag to come to work here. There is not one person here I would call anything other than a friend. Well, actually, I call them lots of things, but they are mainly friends. But enough of all this rambling. Slightly concerned that they have not bought proper leaving card. Perhaps I should draw up spreadsheet with alphabetical list of names?

The Met Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, has walked into trouble again. This time for a £34,000 bonus that detractors say he doesn’t deserve. ‘It would be wonderful if all of us could expect to receive a bonus for embarrassing our employers,’ muses the Telegraph. This week I find myself agreeing vigorously. Wonderful.

It is confusing having a child named after a Serbian dictator. I only discovered this recently. I was asked to do the paper review on Sunday am, but the death of Milosevic the night before changed the running order and inevitably the guests. When I replied to concerned text messages asking where I’d been, I spelt out — in that predictive text shorthand so beloved of teens — milo so dead. Obvious, non? It seems not. Friends, in-laws, relatives responded with alarm: ‘What? What’s wrong with Milo? So Dead? How Dead? Do you mean Milo’s not eating properly? Just off his food?’ Luckily, they realised not even a Priory Text Addict like myself would impart really bad news that way, and assumed it was the natural hyperbole of a paranoid mother. Nevertheless, have written Memo to Self not to call the next one Ratko.

Emily Maitlis is a presenter on BBC’s Newsnight and BBC News 24.

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