So thrilled to get this interview with Kseniya Sobchak, Russia’s female presidential candidate, for today’s G2 in the Guardian. Did I work out whether she’s a stooge or the real deal? I wish. Thanks to Pushkin House (where I’m a trustee) and to Owen Matthews of The Spectator who made this interview happen.
“When your country’s leader is both very similar to an oligarch and used to be a member of the security services, it’s easy to see people might get confused. But Vladimir Putin is not Russia and Russia is not Putin. As Mikhail Zygar, formerly the editor of Russia’s only independent TV channel, Dozhd, wrote last week, Putin is part of a state-sponsored project to establish him as “a unique historical leader of Russia – able to unite fervent advocates of the Communist-era Soviet Union with those who dream of Russia’s pre-revolutionary empire, built on Orthodox Christianity”. That is a mission that involves extreme cognitive dissonance. And that kind of rewriting of history depends on finding as many common causes and common enemies as possible.”
Writing in today’s i newspaper. (With a teeny tiny i that stands for: “I’m not sure why it’s not called The Independent anymore.”) Not a popular view and it’s not because I don’t love the acting and the writing — both are excellent. But I hate The Crown on principle. I don’t want to know that the Royal family are nice people, thanks very much. And without them being sympathetic, rounded characters, this series would never work…
“If we can find who – or what – to blame, we know what to change. Is it the culture? Is it men? Or is it women, afraid to ask for what they’re worth? The reality is that it’s a messy combination of all these things. But only one of them can be changed quickly: how women feel about themselves and their value.
This is difficult stuff to talk about. Philip Hampton, co-chair of a government-commissioned review into the number of women in senior business roles, was reviled last week for saying that the BBC women on the best-paid list “let it [the pay gap] happen because they weren’t doing much about it”. During his career in the City, he said, “lots of men have trooped into my office saying they are underpaid, but no woman has ever done that”. Woman’s Hour presenter Jane Garvey hit back, saying he was “peculiarly out of touch”.
Is he out of touch, or is he speaking from experience? After all, the real story here is not about whether 20 wealthy women at the BBC are paid the same as 40 wealthy men. It’s about the millions of women elsewhere who feel uncomfortable about saying: “Can I have a 20% pay rise this year?” This is the internalised pay gap, and it’s everywhere.”
I set myself the insane task of getting close to a real-life Anchorwoman. And got rather more than I bargained for — on set at Good Morning Britain with Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid. It was an extremely, um, interesting morning…
“As I shadow Reid for the morning – right down to the 3.45am start and a generous application of makeup – I find myself thinking: in her shoes, sitting next to Morgan, what would you do? How distracted would you be by dark thoughts about his salary? How would you hold your own? How would you avoid coming across as “the little woman”?
For the past year, I have been writing a standup show inspired by Angela Rippon, who became the UK’s first woman to hold a position as regular long-term newsreader on a national news programme in 1975. More than 40 years on, we have had dozens of anchorwomen on breakfast television and national news. Women are more physically present on our screens than they were and yet, as the published salaries of the BBC’s talent proved last week, they are often paid far less than their male counterparts.”
Writing in today’s Observer about Macron, Trump and the Daft Punk mash-up. Who do they think they are? Cool Britannia?
“If Richard Curtis were French and writing a bromance movie (L’amour, actuellement?), he could not have conceived a better climax to the narrative than a troupe of Alain Delon lookalikes (and some women: no sexism here), all in full-dress uniform and raising an ironic eyebrow, serenading the happy couple who have just cemented their union. They even had a sexy majorette dude throwing a giant ceremonial baton up in the air and catching it! Oh, France, with your contemporary take on field music, you are really spoiling us.
But what does it all mean? It means France is trying to be Britain, that’s what. This was like a homage to the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony, only a much cheaper, lo-fi version costing a lot less than the £27m we spent on recreating Glastonbury Tor and the Thames and flying a giant Pink Floyd pig between the towers of Battersea power station. France’s display of national pride must have taken half a day to put together and cost about €50. (This was a replacement drumstick for Jean-FranÇois who got carried away in the transition from “Do it faster, makes us stronger” into “Like the legend of the phoenix…” No one can blame him.)”
“I came across an interview with a neuroscientist recently whose daughter was asked: “What does your father do?” She said: “He replies to emails.” He was gutted. I know how he feels. When my son was asked at the age of five what I do for a living, he replied: “She goes on her computer.” I’m a writer and a comedian, but as far as my kids are concerned, I’m a professional technology user who gets paid to ignore them.
Maybe I’m an extreme case because I work from home, so there is no delineation between home and office life for me or for my three children, aged six, ten and thirteen. Does the six-year-old think I spend too much time on devices?
“Probably, yeah. On your phone and computer.””
Well done me.
“A series of new reports suggests that young people aged 18-32 (in this case, in the United States, but in line with trends elsewhere) are becoming increasingly convinced by the idea that it would be “much better for everyone involved if the man is the achiever outside the home and the woman takes care of the home and family”.
It’s the words “much better for everyone involved” that I find particularly distressing for some reason. They have the ring of the capitulation Betty Friedan described in The Feminine Mystique, a kind of surrender that was traditionally best treated with Librium, Valium and strict observance of “gin o’clock”. Younger sisters: believe me, you don’t want this. I understand the lure of the siren call, but it must be resisted. No one is going to look after you apart from yourself. It’s an illusion.”
From today’s Guardian… The six-month anniversary of Trump’s “pussy” comments and how strange it still seems. That caused such a fuss and yet had no impact on his electability whatsoever? Why exactly was that? Let me explain…
“…Six months on, and liberals still don’t get why the “pussy” moment was not instrumental in raising questions about Trump. In fact it had the opposite effect. It galvanised his support. It boosted his campaign. It played well to the base, as they like to say. Just as, in the face of all the current investigations, the men-only White House photo line-ups play well. Just as people can shrug and say: “What do you mean, no women? They have Ivanka and Kellyanne.”
The crucial attempt to understand that moment and why it didn’t represent the end of everything for Trump is finally starting. Oprah Winfrey has led the charge. For the latest issue of O magazine, she gathered a cross-section of voters, five from each side. In her best therapist’s voice, Oprah says: “He said a lot of hurtful, divisive things. Can we all agree with that?” The Democrats spend the meeting weeping (literally). Oprah acknowledges their tears, but lets the Trump voters have their say. When Oprah works her way up to a discreet mention of “the P word”, the responses are blunt: “It was a private conversation and I’ve heard men say far worse.” And, importantly, the next reply: “What about Bill Clinton?” This is the pussy version of “But her emails..” These defences have not changed in six months.”
Writing in today’s Guardian about 1976, supposedly the greatest year ever for Britain. Certainly the hottest summer ever. A great year for the country, perhaps. But not for three-year-old me… The only good thing that happened that summer was my engagement to George (pictured above). Read more here.