Embarrassing Britain, by a man who knows

THIS week's column was going to be about Jade Goody.

Aidan Semmens

THIS week's column was going to be about Jade Goody. Not the poor, doomed woman herself - far, far too many words have been written about her already - but the Jade media circus.

The squalid feeding frenzy that first surrounded her when she was just that thick, fat bird off Big Brother and has returned voraciously for second, third or fourth helpings now she's a tragic dying heroine.

But then I found someone else had already summed up, very neatly and succinctly, all I wanted to say on the matter.

“I was watching the TV today and they're all outside her house. There's a global crisis apparently going on…

“I've got nothing against Jade Goody, that's nothing to do with me. But it bends my head. That, to me, sums up in one tiny five-minute thing on the news what an embarrassing place Britain is right now.

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“You might as well shut No 10 Downing Street down and get Max Clifford to run the country.”

Spot-on. “Embarrassing” is exactly the word. (“Nothing” is not exactly the word, but it's the closest approximation I can use here.)

Strangely, the words are those of someone who used to be a bit of a national embarrassment himself. Noel Gallagher of Oasis.

I was never a fan of Oasis, either the music or the public image.

Back in the days of their greatest celebrity, that whole fabricated Brit-Pop thing, I found Blur marginally the less irritating of the two.

Oasis I considered a third-rate imitation of the most over-rated act in the history of popular music, The Beatles.

The Mancunians, though, seem to have weathered the years better than the Essex boys. Distance enables me to enjoy the old Oasis hits (bar the still-appalling Wonderwall) while the old Blur tunes get further up my nose than ever.

But never mind. The opposition between the two was always a preposterous invention, a phony war designed to sell the very different products of both.

There were better bands around than either of them. Most of the best music, then as ever, was being made by people hardly anyone had heard of.

The Marques Brothers, anyone? Built For Comfort? Under The Bridge? The Toni Vines Band in any of its various guises or incarnations? All to be seen and heard regularly in pubs around Ipswich at the time the Blur-Oasis axis was holding the national attention. All much more fun.

But I digress into nostalgia. The point I wanted to make was that Noel Gallagher tends to be seen as a good musician, but someone who spouts a lot of nonsense. Whereas I see it the other way round.

Nothing I've heard in his music is as sharp - or as enjoyable - as some of the things he says.

Like this put-down of the pretentiousness of Coldplay and U2: “Brilliant (for) the small percentage of people that listens to music and likes to have a good think about it.” (Actually, I do like to think about music, and I think U2 and Coldplay are both very boring.)

Or this wonderfully honest assessment of himself: “I write songs that are derivative of an era I'm obsessed with. I don't think I'm brilliant. I think I'm good at being me.”

Much, much better, it seems, than poor, sad, exploited Jade Goody is at being her.

SHE was speaking to an audience of 1,000 at the European parliament, under a banner that read: “The next generation takes the floor”. Which seems a rather odd slogan for Hillary Clinton.

Beyond those scant details I don't know what the occasion was, what her speech was about or how good it might have been. But it's the soundbite that counts, right?

That, after all, is all the web clip gave me (that and an incongruous ad for HSBC). So it's all I have to go on. About as much as any voter usually has to go on when making the key political decisions.

And what she said was: “Never waste a good crisis.”

Well, that sounds like decent advice. In fact, it's exactly the same words I overheard recently as one business manager explained to another the thinking behind the latest round of redundancies.

Clinton, though, wasn't being quite so cynical. She went on: “When it comes to the economic crisis, it can have a very positive impact on climate change and energy security.”

Well, yes. That's the optimistic view.

There's another one that says apply a little credit crunch and everyone will stop caring about the environment, fair trade or animal welfare and revert to putting cheapness before everything else.

Leaving climate change and energy security to dump us in the biggest depression of all. A terminal one.