Victoria Coren Mitchell - Writer, Broadcaster & Poker Player

Madonna, Motherhood & Radishes

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Here’s this week’s Observer column, about Madonna’s adoption stuff. I was a bit worried that I’d written it too seriously, no jokes, bit grumpy in Madonna’s defence. But then I read what our old friend Amanda Platell had to say about the adoption attempt in yesterday’s Mail and wished I could write it again EVEN GRUMPIER. Here’s Platell:

  “Was anybody taken in by Madonna’s cynical attempts at manipulation this week when her PRs issued an airbrushed picture of her looking angelic while holding the girl orphan she has been refused permission to adopt? I trust the photo won’t sway the Malawian authorities who, instead, I hope, have other images of the singer in mind, such as the pictures of her performing on her current Sticky & Sweet tour, scantily clad, rubbing her crotch and simulating sex while surrounded by nubile young dancers.”

  I think it’s the words “I hope” that really bother me. I completely understand that some people are squeamish when they imagine Madonna using her celebrity clout to bypass red tape (though I don’t, because I think the sooner the child can be out of an orphanage and in a family household the better; red tape delays too many adoptions and, although it might be unfair on those other prospective parents if Madonna didn’t suffer as many delays as they do, it’s still better for the baby), or they might worry that she is doing it for “fashionable reasons” (though I think that’s surely ridiculous, she knows that this is a lifetime commitment and really wouldn’t do it just because African babies are cool. She just wouldn’t.)

  Anyway, so, I can imagine why people might have problems with the idea of the adoption, though I might disagree, but (a) to object on the grounds that Madonna dresses raunchily on stage is PREPOSTEROUS. She’s a performer, for God’s sake! My dad once dressed as George III and sailed down the Thames on a barge. He quite literally looked like a lunatic. But I can promise quite fervently that it didn’t affect his parenting ability. And (b) there’s something about the word “hope”, as Platell sides with the “Malawian authorities” and “hopes” they will think nastily of the singer… “hopes” they will realize that Madonna is surrounded by “nubile young dancers” which must surely render her an unfit mother… I don’t know, it’s so bitchy, it just puts my teeth on edge.

  So anyway, here’s my own rant on the subject.


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Bridget Orr at 8:45 pm on April 19th, 2009

Hope…Platell’s doing it wrong.

Honestly, why is she so despairing of all the things that stop her from being a sneering Femail Masochistic Crone?

Andy W at 9:34 pm on April 19th, 2009

Seriously Vicky, it’s Amanda Platell’s job to annoy you.  That’s what she, and the Mail in general, does.  Next Saturday, ask yourself, do I want to be annoyed or do I want to chill ?


Alan Glaum at 10:27 pm on April 19th, 2009

A good article which, while I do not agree with all of it, made me think.

I agree that children must be kept out of the traditional orphanage, but cases such as Eunice Spry ( ) remind us that social workers do need to do some proper checks; saying you love children is not enough. And unfortunately I have to accept that some children will be in the wrong homes (adopted or fostered or natural if social workers think any home is better than “care”) and will suffer and die as a result.
And in Malawi, I think there needs to be some time to decide if the New York based single woman is as good a choice as when she was married and living in London.  And I think that takes more than a week.

Sam at 9:06 am on April 20th, 2009

Vicky, a decent article in which you make some good points, however I have to take issue with the opening statement:  “In a world where it is revealed that women under 25 are more likely to give birth than get married - where it is, in other words, more normal to be the child of a single parent than a married couple “.  That’s basically complete rubbish.  Just because more women under 25 have kids than get married does not mean that unmarried people have more children than married people.  In fact the statement tells us nothing about the relative fecundity of married or unmarried parents, of any age.  I know it’s pedantic, but cherry-picking statements like that and then using them to support a point that they don’t really make is quite unhelpful.

Victoria Coren at 11:03 am on April 20th, 2009

Well, you say that… but you notice I haven’t (which I would have done, if I were really fighting to make this argument stand up) factored in divorced people. Of the under 25s, more of them are having babies than getting married - of the over-25s, more of them may be getting married but it must be a good 30% getting divorced again. So, add them together and I think it’s fair to say the immediate future lies in the children of married couples being the minority.
  Doesn’t really matter. If the whole piece were about married parents vs. unmarried I’d have tried to get the maths more exact, but that idea is dispensed with after a couple of paragraphs - the point was only that Madonna’s newly unmarried status (assuming the divorce goes ahead) can’t be what people find “strange” about her as a mother because there are quite a lot of them these days. Another brilliantly original, revolutionary point from Coren!

Sam at 12:34 pm on April 20th, 2009

Yeah, you should probably just blame ben goldacre for that.  Whenever I see use of a stat that I don’t agree with I start to seethe.  I wonder, though, whether the stats class as ‘single’ only unmarried women, whether or not they are in a stable relationship with the father. Lies, damn lies etc.  I just felt that you could as easily say that, since more under 16s will give birth than get married, then we’ll all soon be the children of unmarried teenagers.

I agree completely with you about how messed up the adoption process is, though, arguably doing more harm than good.  And as for madge, I think a lot of people feel as they do because of the media frenzy about the adoption, it feels like publicity.  Whether she could have been more discreet or not I can’t say.

Bridget Orr at 6:01 pm on April 20th, 2009

APlattz fetishised the fairytale of S**** B**** but didn’t understand the irony of it all. HATE HER.

David Bodycombe at 12:42 am on April 21st, 2009

I agree with Sam. The vital statistic is that the number of young brides has plummeted. The number of young mothers and single parent families hasn’t changed as much as you think.

% of babies born to a mother under 25:
in 1991: 15% (average age: 27.7 years)
in 2006: 13% (avg: 29.5)

% of brides under 25:
in 1991: 40%
in 2005: 17% (best figures I have - in 2008/9, may well be lower than the “mothers under 25” statistic)

% of “lone parent” vs. “family” households:
in 1991: 10% vs. 61%
in 2007: 10% vs. 56% (drop mainly due to more young singles living alone)

Main source: Office of National Statistics

David Bodycombe at 12:43 am on April 21st, 2009

Because people are putting off marriage more than childbirth, it IS correct that many (over 40%) of kids are born outside wedlock but remember that’s AT THE TIME OF BIRTH. It ignores the fact that the majority of those couples will go on to marry.

So, relax everyone. We’re not headed for social meltdown for a few decades yet.

Alan Glaum at 10:25 pm on April 21st, 2009

Other ONS statistics show that in England only about 14% of children are in “homes” (and that includes 2% in boarding schools). The vast majority 71% are being fostered.

Also I note that more single females (260) than unmarried different sex couples(140) adopted children, so some convinced the social workers
(figures from ONS England yr to 31 march 2008)

David Bodycombe at 8:30 pm on April 22nd, 2009

Of course, the real crime is that of all the kids up for adoption in this country, only 10% get even a single interview with prospective parents.

Source: my fallible memory

AndytheDealer at 12:13 pm on April 24th, 2009

David is right.  In my network of friends there are two couples who produced four children out of wedlock.  One couple have susequently married and both couples are still together.  That would skew the statistics quite nicely towards the breakdown of the family, when in fact the opposite is actually happening.

PS I missed Heresy this week, bloody politicians.  Do you know anything about the new poker tax?  As if 50% isn’t enough, they want more, which could put my job at risk…

Victoria Coren at 3:51 pm on April 24th, 2009

There wasn’t a Heresy this week - we had a week off (see news page). Back on next week, Tuesday at 6.30.

But… poker tax? What do you mean, poker tax?

Andy W at 9:46 pm on April 24th, 2009

It looks like the casinos have to pay more tax, or something.  Sample link :


PS Can people also stop being stats nerds and focus on the main import of this blog entry, viz that Amanda Platell is a total biyatch.

AndytheDealer at 8:13 pm on April 27th, 2009

Oooh, made a characteristic error there.  The tax on casino cardrooms was 15% and is now going to be 50%.  I hope that is not going on top of the 15% already levied or I will be out of a job.  The plans for a massive expansion of the card room at the Vic will now almost certainly gather dust in a back office.

This government certainly knows how to stifle a business that earns considerable amounts of foreign currency.

Andy, I conducted a poll a while back and 95% of the readers of Vicky’s musings agree with you.  3% think the sun shines out of Amanda’s arse and 1.5% would quite happily shove the Sun up La Platell’s rear end!!  Just goes to show, there’s all sorts on here.

Victoria Coren

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