Amy's got a long way to go

PAUL WELLER is one of the most successful British singers ever - by some reckonings, apparently, The most successful.The cover of a new biography out on Monday proclaims him “Britain's finest songwriter”.

PAUL WELLER is one of the most successful British singers ever - by some reckonings, apparently, The most successful.

The cover of a new biography out on Monday proclaims him “Britain's finest songwriter”. Well, it's a point of view, I suppose.

He certainly made some good records with The Jam, but that was almost 30 years ago.

After that came The Style Council, who were as Eighties as white socks with loafers. Some of Weller's work of that period probably still lurks in my attic.

Try as I might, I can't call to mind a single song he's produced since 1985. I've heard just enough from him in that time to place him in the mental file marked “worthy but dull”.

Which, strangely enough, are two words you couldn't apply to new Mobo and Vodaphone award-winner Amy Winehouse. Also strange are the words Weller did apply to Winehouse this week when it was reported that he declared her “a great role model”.

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He may be right that she is “an amazing talent”. She is certainly blessed with a better voice, and weirder looks, than Weller himself. And it may not be entirely her fault that she lives in a celebrity-crazed age in which she is far more famous for her lifestyle than for her music.

Weller apparently said: “I don't think the drugs and the drink and all that make a scrap of difference, really. I think you should judge people on their talent.”

As writers and musicians, that's undoubtedly true. Not as role models.

Some of the greatest music has been written by people you wouldn't want your kids to bring home to tea - still less grow up like.

If Winehouse can conquer her well-publicised demons, continue to make good music and actually fulfil her professional engagements, she might become a good role model.

But I say she's a long way off that yet.

ONE of the many ways in which Gordon Brown's premiership is a nice change lies in his First Lady.

Sarah Brown is a genuinely good egg who likes to stay out of the limelight. Whereas Cherie Blair…

Barely have we drawn enough breath to whisper “goodbye and good riddance” than we are now told Cherie is to publish her autobiography.

It's due out in October next year, which seems a long way off for the publicity to start now. I can hardly wait. To ignore it.

Why on earth would anyone want to relive the Downing Street years through her eyes? Or care about how she got there - especially in a what I suspect might turn out to be a self-glamourising version?

Still, I suppose it will help with the mortgage payments until Tony gets round to writing his blockbuster.

REGULAR readers of this column will know I don't think much of social surveys.

Most of them tell us what is already blindingly obvious, while the rest come under the heading of lies, damned lies and statistics. They pander to cheap, easy journalism.

And nearly all of them are either trying to sell us something or get us to mend our ways.

The one that caught my eye this week was clearly in that last category, but it certainly offered food for thought. Indeed, it should exercise all our minds.

One of the headlines it appeared under was: “Most Brits will not exercise to save their lives”. And it meant that literally.

The survey by the British Heart Foundation found that only 38 per cent of us would exercise more even if the alternative was death. To those other 62pc, I can only ask: “Are you mad?”

IS the crisis at the Northern Rock building society just a little local difficulty, or an early sign of something much bigger?

Is it a catastrophe for one firm and a temporary hassle for its customers - or does it presage a wider collapse of the whole banking system? Are our savings and our pensions safe? Are we on the verge of another crash like 1929 and a general depression like the 1930s?

Or is the current uneasy state of world financial markets just a blip on the graph?

I think we should be told.

Or then again, I think perhaps we shouldn't. Because after all the whole system is built on nothing but confidence. If everyone's confidence is shattered, the whole edifice collapses. Which is pretty much what's happening to poor old Northern Rock