27 October, 2010

Lisbon 2

Actually it might be Lisbon 3, because who can forget the excellent Lisbon Agenda of 2000, which aimed to make the EU 'the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion', by 2010. Of course by the start of this year the EU had slipped down the international competitiveness list not up. It was the habit of Tony Blair to think you just had to announce the policy - no need actually to do anything about it - and the EU seems to have caught a bad dose of Blairitis.

No, what I am referring to is the possibilty of an amendment to the Lisbon Treaty. The German and French leaders, Merkel and Sarkozy, have met in Deauville (no need to worry about the small countries) and agreed to create a system of penalties for countries which have over-large budget deficits. This requires a change to the Treaty, and that requires unanimity. Which means that Britain has to vote for it.

I think this is a good time to remind everyone, including the man himself, that David Cameron has repeatedly promised to repatriate powers from Europe. This may be the only opportunity he ever has. At present there is talk that he will insist on the EU budget not increasing next year (the Eurocrats have asked for a 6% uplift) but this is nowhere near enough. They would have zero this year and 12% next year.

The first thing Cameron has to do is reinstate Britain's rebate, which is necessary because the design of the Common Agricultural Policy favours countries with small, inefficient farms and we lose out by being efficient. It's a crazy world. Tony Blair allowed the rebate to be greatly reduced in return for, not a promise, but a hint that the agricultural budget would be reviewed.

Next we must withdraw from the Working Time Directive. As we are coming out of recession and desperately need growth it is absurd that the European Union should be able to stop people working overtime. This is simply a means of stopping lazy countries getting uncompetitive - by preventing the others which want to work from doing so.

Last we must have a definite commitment to the end of the insane system of regional subsidy, where countries pay money to Europe and get some back only if they spend it on what the Eurocrats want it spent on. It is a gross infringement of our national sovereignty that we can't decide where our money goes

This, I repeat, will most likely be Cameron's one and only chance to do something about the iniquity of the EU. Suspending the year on year budget increase doesn't even come close to being enough. I don't want to prejudge the man but his record to date has not been encouraging. Let's see.

26 October, 2010

Public Corruption

Transparency International, an international anti-corruption organisation, has published its annual Corruption Perception Index, based on a number of international surveys covering 178 countries. Italy has not done well. 55th in 2008, 63rd last year, it is now 67th, with, amongst European countries, only Romania, Bulgaria and Greece rated lower.

Italy ranks as more corrupt than Rwanda.

Scandinavian countries, New Zealand, Singapore and Canada were at the top of the list, Germany 15th, UK 20th, USA 22nd and France 25th.

Italy's growth and the standard of living of its people are held back by corruption. Unproductive jobs are handed out to the wrong people; useless university professors are kept on into their 70s, denying a decent education to the promising young students; vast amounts of money go missing from public contracts. This is something Berlusconi might have turned his mind to, but hasn't; it is is something the oposition might have turned their minds to, but they haven't either; it is something the people should be rioting in the streets about, but they never know if they might be a beneficiary of the system.

Corruption costs a good 1% in annual growth.

And it will be just as bad next year.

25 October, 2010

Electoral Deception

There is very disturbing news from the Spectator's Coffee House blog and from the surprisingly independent Conservative Home blog to the effect that David Cameron intends, even if he wins the next election, to govern as a coalition with the Liberal Democrats.

What this would mean is that the two parties would campaign separately of each other, with different policies, but then after you have voted might decide to adopt some of this party's policies, some of the other's, to govern on a programme which was never put to the electorate. You'll vote, and even if you vote decisively for a Conservative government, the political class will decide what's good for you (or rather for them).

If they cobbled together coalition policies before the vote, and told you about them, that would be OK. But Mr Cameron needs to be reminded continually over the next few years that this course, of deciding on the policies after the vote, is deeply undemocratic.

And may I ask in passsing what is the point of having the Queen as guardian of the constitution if she lets them get away with this kind of electoral deception?

Common naughtiness

A study by the Italian association of matrimonial lawyers suggests that 55% of Italian men betray their wives, whilst 45% of wives betray their husbands.

It seems frightfully high, although I recall that soon after arrival in Italy I was told accusingly that British husbands are the most unfaithful in the world, so Heaven knows what we Brits get up to.

Interestingly, we are told that 60% of infidelities occur in the lunch break. In France, by contrast, the hanky-panky is supposed to take place immediately after work - the famous 'cinq à sept'.

Again strange to our ears, it is men in their fifties who are most likely to betray.

British lunch breaks, at around 40 minutes, are far too short to get past mere flirtation. British 50 year olds are too tired to get past mere flirtation.

It must be going on among the unemployed.

Culture Report

The town of Castellammare di Stabia, on the bay of Naples, is to ban miniskirts, under devolved legislation designed to maintain public order.

The town authorities are going to find this unpopular and embarrassing. Presumably some hard working public servant will be required to measure the young ladies' hemlines.

Equally difficult to maintain are proposed bans on sunbathing and playing football in public places.

You will recall that the town of Furore, just down the coast near Amalfi, this year banned garden gnomes.

What are we coming to?

20 October, 2010

Your money in their hands

The European Parliament has voted for an increase in maternity leave on full pay to 20 weeks.

At present it is 14 weeks. That is to say that now, if you get pregnant, your employer has to pay for more than three months' holiday. Not your government, your employer, which might be struggling and thinking of making other people redundant (not a pregnant woman, of course, that would be illegal). You could get back on your first day and resign, simply trousering the money. The new vote is that this should now be 5 months.

No such conditions are available in the Far East, and that is where the jobs will go. Bad luck you unemployed people.

Of course if you are there among the comfortable restaurants of Brussels, simply collecting a decent salary, looking forward to a fantastic pension, the easiest thing to do is to vote for more nice things without having to consider the costs. This happens because the Euro MPs are not really accountable: in most European countries a party list means that the most important aparatchiks get the seats and get the jobs. Why vote against anything that hands out more money? Just stick to the party. Many people want the same thing for Britain.

We are all of us Europeans in, and in for, a bad recession, where costs need to be cut, things which you might have liked being no longer possible. These Brussels insiders have lost, if they ever had it, any connection  with the outside world.

This is another step in the case for leaving the EU.

aux armes, citoyens!

To British eyes, and I am sure to those of many other nations, the French pensions debacle seems strange. There have now been seven days of strikes and protests against Sarkozy's plan to raise the pensionable age from 60 to 62.

In Britain it has been 65 since the war, at a time when the life expectancy at birth was 65. Now a Frenchman can expect to live to nearly 80.

And France cannot afford its pension system, that is clear. So why all the fuss? What some are saying is that there is a political movement to oppose Sarkozy, and pensions are simply the chosen vehicle. This is in part due to the failure of the left to make any kind of serious opposition, and partly due to the French constitution which gives the French President the sort of powers you expect of an African dictator.

I must say Sarkozy seems a loathesome little man and one can quite understand why the French want rid of him. His most likely opponent at the next election would seem to be Dominic Strauss-Kahn, currently head of the IMF, but the neo-communist Martine Aubry is leader of the Socialists and doesn't look ready to stand aside.

The strikes and demos cannot last until the 2012 election so something has to give. Sixty-one and a half?

Defence Cuts

The whole point of a strategic defence review is that it should cover what we are actualy going to want from our armed services over the medium-term. I should have thought the most obvious criterion was that the public are no longer going to permit one of these insane international frolics like Iraq and Afghanistan.

Accordingly, when the Daily Telegraph wails that Britain can not independently fight a major war again, we should rejoice.

Let's just have minor ones. Or none.

In fact, service personnel will be cut from 175,000 to 158,000. Whereas we sent 45,000 soldiers to Iraq in 2003, we could now only send 30,000. I don't find that too shocking.

We really have to rid ourselves of the sentiment in all this - it is a shame if soldiers lose their jobs, but a lot of people are losing their jobs; it is a shame if we are not an international superpower, but then we were anyway so far behind America that it wasn't really relevant; it is a shame if we can't invade someone on the other side of the world: nor can France, Germany, Italy, Japan or Canada. That's why we belong to NATO, where we have been more than pulling our weight while others haven't.

We'll live.

Those aircraft crriers

I am indebted to Guido for reminding me of this.

It is from some time ago (the carriers now cost much more) so quite prescient

18 October, 2010

Your money in their hands

You will scarcely believe this, but it is true.

All the Satellite Navigation we have at the moment is courtesy of America. The US developed the GPS system which handles everything from the accurate positioning of shipping to getting you home from the restaurant on Friday night. It is given away free, but a more sophisticated system exists which can pinpoint you down to your little toenail; it is used for military purposes.

Some time ago the European Union decided it must have its own GPS, and it is called Galileo. Incidentally it is one of the most disturbing features of the EU recently that it feels it must copy America: President Rumpy goes everywhere in an Obama style motorcade, and we are spending €280 million on a White House style palace for him.

Anyway, Galileo, as you can imagine with a project run by bureaucrats who have never had any connection with the outside world, is running 10 years late and at a cost of €22 billion against its original budget of €2.6 billion. According to Open Europe, ‘The German government has admitted that "All in all, it is assumed, based on the currently available estimates, that the operating costs will exceed direct revenues, even in the long term."’

The project has been abandoned by industry, which sees no future in it, and abandoned by its Chinese partners, who have set up their own system, on the wavelengths which Galileo wanted to use, so Europe will now have to ask China’s permission to establish Galileo. Russia, India and Japan have also set up their own systems.

In fact the only people who want this are the Eurocrats: self-aggrandising functionaries who see no limit to the amount of your money they can spend.

17 October, 2010

Amanda Knox

An Italian MP, Rocco Girlanda, is to publish a book about Amanda Knox, the young American woman serving a sentence in Italy for the murder of her flatmate Meredith Kercher in Perugia.

Girlanda is expected to say that Knox is very different to the ‘sex, drugs and rock and roll’ image portrayed by the media.

Well, that may be true and it may not. What is certain is that a large amount of information, true or false, about Knox’s private life was released by police and court officials before the trial. This was in large part irrelevant to the trial but must have had an effect on the verdict. In any other civilised country the release of such material would be a serious contempt of court.

In Italy, by contrast, such activity is normal. Carabinieri and prosecution officials sell information to press, who are allowed to publish it.

When Berlusconi tried to pass a law to stop this corrupt practice he was shouted down for trying to conceal vital information, on the grounds that the Italian legal process is so long that information on, say, public figures should be available to the press otherwise it is years until it is known.

Whatever Berlusconi’s motives, this is nonsense. Reform of the trial system would be easy if there were the will to do it. Release of irrelevant information about the accused, as happened to Amanda Knox, is unforgiveable.

Knox's appeal is scheduled for next month.

16 October, 2010

Tea for Silvio

Following the success in America of the TEA Party candidates, Silvio Berlusconi has said that Italy needs the same sort of movement for the centre right.

It is easy to see why this wouldn’t work. The American acronym is for ‘Taxed Enough Already’ and whilst this is certainly true of Italy, and certainly true that a large percentage of voters are concerned about it, taxation is in the hands of the government which is in the hands..er.. of Silvio. He’s been in long enough that if there’s something wrong it is his fault.

Where Silvio is right is that his party has been finding it difficult getting its message across. In part this is because the story always seems to be Silvio himself, but in part it has got used to defining itself as ‘not the socialists’. This has worked OK electorally but can’t work forever.

What is the centre right for? A proposed Partito di Tè figurehead was Daniela Santanche, an authoritarian anti immigrant politician. That isn’t going to win many votes. Maybe the Right is for economic reform, but again it merely seems to be emphasising ‘not as little reform as the other lot’. Why hasn’t Silvio reduced taxes? That would involve upsetting some people. Cutting waste would upset others. But that is what successful reformers do: Thatcher, Reagan, even Sarah Palin upset people. It is what Silvio should have done and may now be his only hope if the Left were to find a popular champion.

A movement, a defined direction of travel, could keep the Centre Right in power in Italy for a long time. It wouldn’t just have to be about cuts (although there is plenty of low hanging fruit there): properly collecting taxes from those who should be paying them, fighting corruption and nepotism, these would open the eyes of voters who are currently not really involved.

Umberto Bossi’s Northern League is opening branches in southern Umbria, 100km from Rome. If Silvio doesn’t do something he may find himself squeezed from both sides.

News from the confused

The sale of Liverpool Football Club appears to have gone ahead, happening, conveniently for the British media, just as its last obsession, with the Chilean miners, has got less interesting (nobody died). This news from the world of sport has created more column inches of hysteria than if BP had been sold to the French.

The story is simply told. The club had been owned, or at least controlled, by two Americans, Tom Hicks and George Gillett. It had been doing very badly of late, facing the possibility of being demoted from the Premier League (although the football season runs from August to May so there is plenty of time to go). The fans were upset: one wrote on a sports blog: ‘looking out of my office window I saw four Liverpool fans playing football with a hedgehog. I was disgusted and about to ‘phone the animal welfare when the hedgehog went 1-0 up.’

Anyway, back to the Americans (why Americans? That, and the position of the fans, is what I want to address here). Gillett defaulted on a loan and his shares were in the hands of the bank, which decided to accept an offer from an American company called NESV and that meant, within the complex structure of ownership, that Hicks was outvoted and had to accept the money.

Mr Hicks said ‘I’m shocked, devastated and frustrated. I’m very disappointed’ showing that during his time in English Football he had at least mastered the strange, hyperbolic argot in which the proceedings are described.

Now, football is an odd business. The customers (fans) feel they own the business, even though it is clear they don’t (I remember during a similar battle at Manchester United posters saying ‘Man. Utd. Is not for sale’, when it manifestly was). You get this a little in the business world, with some branded products having vocal supporters, but nowhere near to the extent you see in football.

The fans’ wishes are easily explained: they want to win, win the Premier League, win the European Cup, win everything. Which is why Liverpool’s new controlling figure, John W Henry, was keen to make this his statement: ‘We want to win!’

But does he? Is winning his only goal (apologies for that)? The way this whole thing works is that Liverpool, or Manchester or Chelsea, is a brand and a brand has to be developed to make money. Winning is important for TV income and sponsorship, but the first four teams qualify for the major competitions so Mr Henry won’t at all mind coming fourth. He knows the score (sorry). A football club borrows to buy players and that debt is serviced by the income, which comes in large part from the fans, going to see the matches, buying the shirts and other memorabilia, watching the captive TV channel with its advertising etc. Mr Henry also owns the Boston Red Sox, a baseball team, but his home market is saturated: the fans and the TV won’t pay any more and no one wants to pile up too much debt in this climate. He is rubbing his hands as he lands at Heathrow, because this new market is run by some of the most stupid, outdated people in the world of sport. Businessmen like suckers.

At nearby Manchester City and at Chelsea, fabulously rich individuals have bought the clubs, perhaps for their amusement. Not Mr Henry. He is a businessman and wants a return. The supporters shouldn’t celebrate too early: it is they who will be milked to produce that return.

13 October, 2010

Education in Britain

The Equality and Human Rights Commission's report 'How fair is Britain' has some shocking information. Much of it is concerned with regional health figures and death rates in different parts of the country (don't live in Scotland) but amongst other statistics it states that only two thirds of people in lower social economic categories achieved functional literacy, and only one third of them achieved functional numeracy.

These are figures which should have shocked a third world country. They are the result of decades of incompetence and socialist meddling.

I am in favour of the current government's Free Schools initiative, but it is clear that we should consider any new educational policy as long as it isn't more of what we already have.

Those figures again: a third of people in working class households are illiterate and two thirds of them innumerate.

Good Grief.

Disaster in Germany

This blog works hard to keep its readers updated about important international developments and it regrettably has to report a lamentable decision by a German Court.

According to Der Spiegel, the Duesseldorf Court has banned the Bierbike. For those of you not in the know, a Bierbike is a pedal driven device capable of seating sixteen and equipped with a bar. Good, eh?

The Bierbike represents all that is best of clever German engineering, capable of travelling through the main streets of the city at 6 km/h and keeping its occupants refreshed.

The court has declined to issue a permit on the grounds that people might fall off.

12 October, 2010

Too bloated to know how much it's got

The Telegraph reports that the Office for National Statistics estimates that government property is worth something like £370bn. However, there is no comprehensive register of the entire portfolio and some City experts believe the estate could be worth £500bn.

The figure of £370 billion means £6,000 for every man, woman and child in the country. It is a clear indication of how grotesquely we have allowed the State to grow. And there is no comprehensive register: they don't even know how much property they own.

With Sir Philip Green's statement that he can save billions without firing a single State employee I am wondering whether we can make the required cuts without too much effort.

The big threat of such a big state is to our democracy. The fact that it can own hundreds of billions of pounds worth of property without knowing exactly how much or what precisely it is, is an indication that it has accreted in power without reference to the people who theoretically own it and to whom it owes its fealty.

Time to start cutting.


I had an amusing discussion with an Italian friend about who was the world's most famous sports star. Most Italians can remember the World Cup winning team of 2006, and know of Valentino Rossi the former world motorbike champion, but of course the answer is Sachin Tendulkar, treated almost as a god by a billion Indians.

I wrote a couple of years ago that he had passed 12,000 test runs, and now he has passed 14,000. His nearest challenger, Ricky Ponting of Australia, had to sweat in the field as he made 191 not out yesterday and finished on 214 today. Ponting is 2,000 runs behind.

This is Sachin's 49th Test century. His test average this year is 84. He seems to be getting better and better.

Joan Sutherland

Strange thing. After my article a couple of days ago about the appalling Nigella Lawson, which mentioned Joan Sutherland, I wrote to a friend that I had automatically written 'the late Joan Sutherland' and on checking found that she was still alive.

Now, alas, she is dead, aged 83. She sang her first leading role at the Royal Opera House in 1952 and received her title 'La Stupenda' from the audience at La Fenice in 1960.

I am now bending my thoughts on the late Jonathan Ross.

11 October, 2010

Well, quite

Matthew d'Ancona in the Telegraph: 'You know the type: the kind of small-government Tory who would happily see the entire machinery of the state reduced to Her Majesty the Queen, a single nuclear missile, and subsidised radio coverage of all Test matches.'

10 October, 2010

Come to Libya!

Today's Sunday Telegraph carries a surprise interview with Aisha Gaddafi, the great Colonel's daughter.

She is described as 'defender of Saddam, supporter of the IRA and UN Goodwill Ambassador', three accolades you don't often see together.

'Come to Libya, you are all most welcome' she says.

In fact on a visit to London 10 years ago Aisha stood up at Speaker's Corner and gave a long tirade in favour of the IRA. She does not say whether those of us who accept her offer to visit Libya will be allowed to stand up in central Tripoli and speak in support of terrorist groups trying to overthrow the Libyan Government. Well, it's worth a try, I suppose.

Speculation that Aisha might succeed her father (who is 68) is apparently inaccurate: the favourite is her brother Mutassim.

07 October, 2010

Norman Wisdom

I didn't post an obituary for Norman Wisdom, largely because I didn't like his work. Nothing wrong with portraying the ingénu, but he always seemed to be trying too hard for his laughs, erring on the side of mocking disability and misfortune.

I now learn that someone posted on Wikipedia that he wrote the song 'There'll be bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover'.

Of course he didn't.

The Guardian and the Mirror duly printed the story. I know newspapers are having to cut costs but just a little bit of checking.....

UK Defence

Whenever costs are being squeezed the departmental PR machine goes into overdrive. None do this better than the ministry of defence which alternates from mawkish support of our 'brave boys' to warnings of the massed hordes of foreign invaders threatening the channel ports.

Something has to give, somewhere, of course. An article in the Telegraph by retired General Sir Richard Dannatt probably shows the way things are going. Dannatt is well connected in Tory circles and would hardly have been allowed to write the article if it weren't what the Government were trying to project.

The article suggests that one of the two new aircraft carriers, which is already half built and paid for, should be kept on, but in mothballs. The saving on the other one and the reduction in the number of aircraft needed would pay for more frigates. We would pull out of Germany and those soldiers could be based at the airbases which would no longer be needed. Apart from scrapping some tanks and heavy artillery the army and the Royal Marines would be kept roughly as they are.

There is a lot of imprecise mumbling about the nuclear deterrent, some saying it would be Trident based, others going out of their way to avoid mentioning Trident at all. Whatever, the decision will be delayed as long as possible. For myself I have always wondered whether we couldn't replace it with something which made a smaller - but still substantial - bang, and cost half as much. Say big enough to bust an Iranian subterranean silo but not big enough to destroy every Iranian city at the same time. A smaller bomb could be delivered from a variety of different platforms, which would surprise Johnny Foreigner just as much as it coming from a secret submarine.

Probably wrong.

05 October, 2010

The Conservatives

I have watched a little of the Conservative Conference. George Osborne did quite well, Theresa May did well under the circumstances (the Home Office brief is the toughest one at Conservative conferences, where most of the attendees will be satisfied with little less than the reintroduction of capital and corporal punishment).

It seemed that each speaker had been ordered to use the words 'in the national interest' at least twice. Some said almost nothing else.

The problem with political parties espousing the national interest is that our traditional way of expressing it is through the ballot box and nobody voted for the coalition, for the simple reason it wasn't on the ballot paper.

The coalition's policies are concocted in the political classes' interests, and we shall see in due course if they conform with the national one.

Geert Wilders

The trial of Geert Wilders, the leader of the third party in Holland, on five charges of inciting hatred and discrimination against Muslims, has been halted. Just one of the problems of this sort of legislation is that people can't help displaying their anti-racial views to jump on the bandwagon. In this case, when Wilders, quite legally, I think, exercised his right to remain silent the judge seemed to accuse him of avoiding argument, suggesting that he often had.

The judge will probably have to be replaced and the trial abandoned or started again. Every minute this goes on is wonderful publicity for Wilders.

Most of the accusations stem from his film Fitna. I have seen it, and you can too if this link works


I have not posted it because it shows some pretty violent stuff, including one scene I rather wish I hadn't seen. But it did not seem to me to incite racial hatred. Most of it showed scenes of Muslims exciting their own kind to racial hatred against Christians and Jews and homosexuals, with several which were clear incitement to murder. I'm afraid if this is what the Dutch prosecution service is going after they are making asses of themselves.

The film does compare parts of the Koran with Mein Kampf but to be honest as regards the bits about slaughtering Jews the Koran is much stronger stuff (and of course better written).

Geert Wilders may be all right, he may be a nasty piece of work, but this film merely purports to show that Holland is too tolerant of an intolerant minority which is trying to change its way of life. That's not incitement, it's politics. Given that, we can only regard his prosecution as an attack on his freedom of speech.

'I disagree with what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it' as Voltaire never said (it was one of his mates). I'm afraid we have to defend him.

Universal Benefits

Here is where we are in British politics. Everyone, or rather most people, understand that there must be reductions in spending budgets (as I have mentioned before there will not be public expenditure cuts, public expenditure will rise in each of the next five years, each year more than the previous) but as soon as the Chancellor outlines a reduction everyone complains it is too horrid.

It is perfectly ridiculous that we pay child benefit to people who are comfortably off, and it is perfectly ridiculous that we should give them free TV licences, free bus passes and a winter fuel allowance (which they even receive in their flats in Marbella).

Poor people are paying taxes to give money to the rich. Surely, recession or no recession, the age of universal benefits must be finished with.

03 October, 2010


Yesterday was of course the 50th anniversary of independence for Nigeria. It has a population of 155 million, equally divided between two religions and three main tribes, none of whom get on with each other. Corruption is rife. It is the world's 8th largest exporter of oil, but fails to meet optimum production levels due to terrorism.

It is hard to know where to start, but we wish them well. The President is called Goodluck Jonathan.

Alles gute zum Geburtstag

Germany today celebrates 20 years of East and West being united. Of course they were united between 1871 and 1945 so you could say the country was only separated for 45 years.

But in those 45 years the Wirtschaftswunder, or economic miracle made the West rich and the East poor. When monetary reunification was achieved the then Chancellor, Helmut Kohl, insisted that it should be at 1 Deutsche Mark = 1 Ostmark, many times the black market rate, but despite this nominal transfer of wealth the East remains poor, with high unemployment and low investment. Not as bad as it was, but still poor.

Despite Angela Merkel having grown up in the East, none of her ministers has and no one of any importance in the business world has either.

Still, the Germans are to be congratulated on making a good fist of a near impossible task. It may just be that it takes 20 years longer than they expected.

The BBC: this is what you pay for

A strange article by William Langley in the Telegraph is an encomium to Nigella Lawson: ‘La Stupenda of the blender’. I don’t know if it also supposed to be some sort of insult to Dame Joan Sutherland.

Incidentally what do you think about a man called Nigel naming his daughter Nigella? Just a little bit...um...Still, it is the name for the flower Love-in-a-mist which is nice if cheesy.

Which brings me on to the programme, which by a miracle of modern technology I managed to watch, Nigella’s ‘You know it makes sense’.

Ms Lawson enters her Belgravia kitchen wearing a denim jacket, a garment so preposterously unsuited to her image and figure as to make you sure it was some sort of statement, without knowing of what. The kitchen is a mixture of the old and the modern, with endless rows of fairy lights, as if Marguerite Patten were sharing a flat with Liberace. Perhaps that is what is going on here. There is an element of the 1950s ‘hostess with the mostest’ about her act.

Ms Lawson is larger than life, and at times, with some deft camera work, of which there is an unnecessary amount, larger than you would have thought possible. I remember that when she tried unsuccessfully to make a success in America a critic warned that it was impossible in that country to be successful with such a big bottom. It is not however her bottom that we have forced on us: the camera is fixed on, one might say fixated by, her substantial bosom. Some might like it, some might not, but in a culture obsessed by slimness it looks odd. Again, you might feel – I did – that it is regrettable that it looks odd; a tubby male cook looks cheery: ‘let me have men about me that are fat’. Then you realise it is not her size, it's the way she dresses. A 1950s negligé suitable for the seaside landlady chatting up the gentleman in Room 3. Whatever, odd is what it looks.

Not as odd, however as her facial and verbal expression. In between awful clichéd homilies – ‘I love the kitchen’, ‘I believe in life you take your pleasures where you can’ her full lips and perfect teeth form a welcome-to-my-world smile so patronising that you want to cough up ‘my short pasta and salami stew’. ‘I love thinking about food’ (huge soupy smile) ‘I love cooking food’ (h.s.s.), ‘I rather like eating food’ (h.s.s.). You should be as lucky as Nigella.

I watched the programme aghast at its awfulness. It is a commonplace to criticise Italian television but Berlusconi at his worst would be quite incapable of producing this bilge.