Davina McCall

When Big Brother first started, I really liked Davina. I thought she provided a comforting, big-sisterly presence both for the viewers and for evicted housemates as she accompanied them on the terrifying journey out of the house and into the TV studio.

I think it was around the time of Kate Lawler – Kate who liked a drink, and enjoyed fooling around and flirting – that I began to get the sense that Davina (that’s the same Davina who has happily spoken publicly about her Drink And Drugs Hell™) had a rather disapproving attitude towards attractive young women who liked to have fun. And I think that’s got truer and truer over the years, to the point now where I actively dread watching her interview anyone with the temerity to be young, pretty and unmarried.

This reached its horrific pinnacle last night with the eviction from the Celebrity Big Brother house of Katia Ivanova, most famous for being the woman for whom Ronnie Wood left his wife Jo two years ago.

Katia is twenty-one. This means that two years ago, when she got involved with sixty-year-old relapsed alcoholic Ronnie Wood, she was nineteen. The relationship ended abruptly just before Christmas when Ronnie was arrested and cautioned over a “domestic incident”.

Katia is now reportedly “seeing” someone else, and the behaviour of which Davina vocally and solemnly disapproved consisted in her becoming involved with Jonas Altberg, a Swedish musician, during her two-week stay in the Big Brother house.

Shall we take another look at those facts? At nineteen, Katia entered a relationship with an alcoholic over forty years her senior, who (she says) drank and took cocaine daily during their time together. The relationship ended with a violent incident over which he was arrested. This happened less than a month ago. Since then, she has become involved with another man, who was shortly afterwards superceded in her affections by Jonas, aka Basshunter, who we were told at the start of the series is well-known in Sweden for his womanising and who has a sex tape circulating on the internet; who nonetheless treated her gently and thoughtfully during the time they spent together.

Davina’s interview with Katia consisted in its entirety of Davina asking Katia whether she thought she’d behaved well in the house, over clips of Katia and Jonas variously talking, flirting, kissing and sharing a bed (very decorously, both fully clothed). At the end, and this was the point at which my blood started to boil, Davina asked Katia whether she thought she’d improved her reputation in the eyes of the public, and Katia laughed and said “probably not”. Rather than chummily joining in, which was what the situation – by now quite awkward – desperately needed, Davina gave Katia a severe look and said “learn from this, OK?”.

I’m sorry, learn what? It seems to me that Katia has already learned, in the last month, that she doesn’t need to be in a relationship with a violent, alcoholic sexagenarian; that there are plenty of men who are young, attractive and want to be around her, and that at twenty-one she is entitled to a little uncomplicated fun. There is no reason in the world for her not to do whatever she likes with whomever she likes, and Davina’s holier-than-thou disapproval was unnecessary, mysogynistic and downright unpleasant.

I hope that when her daughters are teenagers and sleeping with middle-aged alcoholics (and Davina has form in this respect: she once dated Eric Clapton), she manages to be a bit less judgemental and a bit more understanding. And I hope that Katia takes as long as she likes to settle down, and isn’t felled by the unkindness of people who can’t find their way out of their own jealousy and spite.


I’ve found myself ignoring the papers for the last couple of weeks, initially because I found the lurid coverage of Michael Jackson’s death distasteful, and then because I started to realise that I find most newspaper journalism distasteful. In Dublin a couple of months ago I picked up a copy of the Irish version of the Daily Mirror, which was almost identical to the UK edition except that the celebrity gossip pages on the inside were all about people I’d never heard of. But reading them, I noticed that the stories about Brian O’Driscoll and Amy Huberman have a very different slant from the ones we get over here about Jordan and Peter Andre. The Irish celebrities were granted respect and admiration – not quite in the cloying tones of Hello magazine, but with an underlying assumption that they were decent people who deserved their success. It was sweet and refreshing and I enjoyed it.

Contrast that with the snide attitude of the UK tabs, whose bile and bitterness is barely concealed whenever they have the opportunity to publish a story (or, more usually, a non-story) about one of our home grown celebs. Beware the pop star or soap actor who flashes some thigh as she steps out of a car, or goes to a party and – the horror – gets a bit drunk; for she (and it will almost always be she) will face the chastisement of our morally spotless guardians of the press the next day. It sunk to an especial low this week with a camera thrust down the modest cleavage of 19-year-old Hermione Granger Emma Watson as she battled with inclement weather at the Harry Potter premiere in Leicester Square. Really, is that the best we can do? It makes me wish there were a heaven so that the photographer who took that shot could line up with the 3am girls, the showbiz editors and every columnist ever and be asked to account for their actions at the ends of their lives.

St Peter: And what did you do?

Columnist: Well, I…sneered. And called people bad mothers, and drew attention to their weight gains.

St. Peter: Hmm. Anything else?

Columnist: I, I…well, I used my column to transfer small gripes and personal feuds onto the national stage.

<thunder, lightning bolt, columnist is never seen again>

But we all know that the gutter press is hateful. What I find more objectionable is the scarcely-concealed attempts of the “quality” papers to bump up their readership by focusing almost exclusively on sport and scandal. The MPs’ expenses row went on for six weeks longer than was necessary or interesting, and now the Guardian looks to be attempting to emulate the Telegraph’s success by creating a jumped-up nonstory over the News of the World’s attempts to bug the mobile phones of, well, just about anyone who sprung to mind. Now, I bow to no-one in my distaste for the way the NOTW conducts almost all of its affairs and I agree that it’s very much Not OK to bug people’s phones without their knowledge and for no demonstrable reason except to gather dirt. But of all the things which happened in the world this week, is that really the one we need to know about the most?

Of course, everybody gets their news on the internet now, so newspapers have had to start shouting and campaigning and resorting to whatever tricks they can concoct in order to shift copies. But I feel the loss of a time when the newspapers told me the news, and did it without feeling the need to pronounce on the character and motivations of everybody they report upon.

Plus, you know, journalists are the worst people in the world, so it’s hard to read their hectoring with any level of seriousness.