x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Desperate Brown

Philippa Kennedy on the follies of public figures, capital news and economic injustice in Hollywood.

Emma Watson is reported to have earned Dh115m last year - more than Meryl Streep or Judi Dench.
Emma Watson is reported to have earned Dh115m last year - more than Meryl Streep or Judi Dench.

As soon as the British prime minister allowed himself to be persuaded by the slick tongue of Piers Morgan to do a candid television interview he was on a hiding to nothing. I think he'll live to regret baring his soul and weeping publicly about the sad death of his baby daughter and the illness of his son. Morgan has been pals with the Browns since his days as the editor of the Daily Mirror newspaper, days that ended abruptly after he published "faked" photographs of British soldiers appearing to abuse Iraqi prisoners.

Since then he has become a successful television star, outspoken columnist, interviewer and consummate self-publicist, with a talent for making his interview subjects weep. It's all very well for the luvvies to do it. We expect the likes of Katie Price to sob on Morgan's shoulder but Gordon Brown is not a glamour model with a book to publicise. The sight of such a normally reserved person breaking down on national television was uncomfortable at best and distasteful at worst.

Nobody could ever doubt the anguish that he and his wife Sarah suffered after the baby Jennifer died, nor the struggle they have had to come to terms with their son's cystic fibrosis, but those things are not for public consumption or entertainment. Prime ministers should not be made to feel that it would make them appear more voter-friendly if they spill their guts on prime time TV. Prime ministers are supposed to have more dignity.

With weeks to go until the announcement of a general election, Brown's advisers clearly think his image needs a bit of softening up. He never did have that man-of-the-people cosiness of Tony Blair, or the latter's ability to spout sentiments such as "she was the people's princess" complete with convincing chin wobble in the wake of a national tragedy like the death of Princess Diana. People might have accurately surmised that those words were written by the spin doctor Alastair Campbell, who had his very own lip-trembling Diana moment during a bit of tough questioning last week, but Blair made them sound like his own grief-stricken thoughts at the time.

Brown just can't deliver emotion convincingly even if it's utterly genuine. It was just embarrassing after so many public assertions that "my children aren't props". He should have stuck to his guns on that one, rather than trying to play the public-sympathy card in such a shameless way. Whether I voted for him or not, I've always believed he was a decent sort of bloke whose slightly grumpy and unpolished public image just proved he was more of a "straightforward kinda guy" than his predecessor.

To my mind, his performance in the Morgan interview smacked of a desperate leader on the skids who would do anything to be re-elected. It may be the fashion to reveal every emotional cough and spit, but the more overtly transparent politicians are, the more my suspicious mind wonders what they're trying to divert my attention from. Pre-election PR stunts based on such an obvious appeal to public sentiment don't do it for me when it comes to choosing a political leader. This was a spin too far.

The rehabilitation of sporting heroes who fall from grace seems to be taking place in double quick time these days. In a matter of weeks, John Terry has gone from England's goal-scoring hero to a supposed lying, cheating villain with an exotic mistress and back to loving family man pictured in the Sunday newspapers tenderly kissing the wife he so callously betrayed. And all before you can say Jack Robinson - or do I mean Max Clifford?

Pictures like this are supposed to convince us that all's well in the squeaky-clean world of the beautiful game during the run-up to the World Cup. Euphemisms such as "drawing a line under it" and "moving on" are trotted out and the unfortunate wife is expected to shut up and get on with her life. Soaking up the Dubai sunshine in five-star luxury, Toni Terry apparently didn't take long to reflect on what she would lose in terms of lifestyle if she divorced her husband, whose track record for fidelity does not augur well for their long-term future as a couple.

Emma Watson is a sweet-faced girl and by all accounts very nice and unspoilt. She must be thanking her lucky stars that at the age of nine she was plucked from obscurity to star in the first Harry Potter movie as Hermione Grainger, having only acted in school plays. At the age of 18 she is not the greatest actress in the world - in fact, she doesn't even come close - but she is said to have made £20 million (Dh115m) last year, making her Hollywood's highest-paid female star.

If it weren't so "Riddikulus" it would be enough to make you "Diffindo" (a spell that splits seams). Where is Meryl Streep on the list, Susan Sarandon, Judi Dench or any number of fabulous actresses who can make you laugh and cry in the same entrancing moment and who seldom make it on to the Rich Lists. For the six Harry Potter films Watson has made more than £10m and being chosen as the face of Burberry boosted her earnings considerably, as has launching her own brand of right-on clothing for the ethical fashion label People Tree. So "Evanesco", oh ye doubters, or "Expelliarmus" if you prefer it. This kid is one Bedazzling Hex.

Goldie Hawn has made a career out of being the dippy blonde. It's hard to believe that it's four decades since she burst giggling on to television screens in Rowan and Martin's Laugh In. She's been married and divorced twice, has three children, including the actress Kate Hudson, and has lived with her handsome actor partner Kurt Russell for years.

She even won an Oscar for her 1969 performance in Cactus Flower. In short, she has it all but I guess it's not enough. She's doing her best to be taken seriously as an educationalist.She became involved in eastern philosophy in 1972 and is a practising Buddhist although she was brought up in the Jewish faith. She describes herself as a Jewish Buddhist and runs an educational charity that teaches a Buddhist awareness technique and positive-thinking skills including breathing exercises known as MindUp that claim to boost a child's ability to absorb knowledge. Now she is cosying up to the Tory party in the UK and wants help them start a showcase school in Britain incorporating the ideas if they win the next election. Pity the poor kids. Aren't they suffering enough? A better idea would be to teach them to read and write.

Young Noah Cyrus dressed up like a dominatrix, Princess Tiami Andre in false eyelashes and lipstick and Suri Cruise teetering around in designer heels. These silly showbiz parents seem to have lost all sense of proportion allowing their children to be photographed looking like jailbait. Today's world is too full of dangerous people to send out signals that it's OK to parade innocent babes like that in public. There's nothing wrong with dressing up, but it should be in the safety of their homes.

In an interview to mark his 50th birthday, the Duke of York says he is not convinced that lessons have been learnt from failed royal marriages, but that he will try to make sure his nephews Princes William and Harry avoid past mistakes. Never the most cerebral of princes, Airmiles Andy nevertheless has a point. Nobody ever learns from other people's mistakes.

Abu Dhabi has been named as the most liveable city in the Gulf in a new survey. Researchers used 30 indicators across five categories - stability, health care, culture and environment, education and infrastructure- in the Economist Intelligence Unit survey, with the capital scoring 85 on stability and 75 on health and education. Surprisingly its score for culture was only 58.1, but when Saadiyat Island is launched with its Guggenheim, Louvre and Zayed National Museums, and Performing Arts Centre in 2013 this score will undoubtedly shoot up.

Nice to know we're in the right place.