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Long life

Alexander Chancellor: This Christmas it’s nice to be able to pity the stinking rich for a change

14 December 2013

9:00 AM

14 December 2013

9:00 AM

This is the season of goodwill when one should think about people less fortunate than oneself and wish them better luck. It’s easy to forget to do this when one is having a wonderful time with one’s family and friends, playing charades, getting drunk, and so on. But it would be heartless not to spare one little thought for David and Victoria Beckham, who are planning at this joyous time to squander millions of pounds on turning a nice, cosy Victorian family house in Kensington into some kind of grim Californian spa hotel, equipped with massage beds and powder rooms and a catwalk on which Posh Spice can walk up and down, parading her new clothes. According to Posh’s plans, even her young children will have their own ‘en suite’ bathrooms. One really has to feel sorry for the Beckhams.

And what about Trinny Woodall, the TV fashion tipster? Her future looked rosy when she started going out with the frightfully rich Charles Saatchi after his acrimonious divorce from Nigella Lawson; but then Saatchi revealed in court that he was still madly in love with his former wife. ‘I adore Nigella,’ he said. ‘I absolutely adore Nigella and I’m heartbroken to have lost her.’ If that’s really how he feels, then one might perhaps feel a little sorry for him; and one might also feel a little sorry for Nigella, whose chances of making it big in America have been potentially jeopardised by courtroom allegations of drug abuse. But surely our deepest sympathy should be for Trinny, who has been made to look a fool for all the world. Saatchi let people think that they were on intimate terms by taking her to the same restaurant, Scott’s, where he used to take Nigella, and by sitting with her outside so that the paparazzi could snap them together. And then he humiliated her by announcing his undying love for his former wife. Trinny must be feeling wretched.


I also have to say that I wouldn’t like to be in the shoes of those Calabrian sisters, Elisabetta and Francesca Grillo, who used to work for Nigella and who have gone on trial for allegedly defrauding her and her ex-husband of nearly £700,000. That is an impressive amount of money, but the Grillos are said to have frittered it all away on high living and air fares and fashion purchases, so for all we know the Grillos may now be almost penniless. And whatever the verdict in the case may turn out to be, they are unlikely in future to be swamped with offers of jobs as nannies or personal assistants. So they may well end up having to go back to Calabria and eke out a living picking olives, which is disagreeable and sometimes dangerous work.

And then there is Rupert Murdoch. He may be rich; he may be powerful. But how can he have felt when he learnt that his then wife, Wendi Deng, may have had a number of meetings with Tony Blair without him knowing and may even have had him to stay for two weekends at houses belonging to Murdoch in California? Nobody is suggesting Wendi and Tony had an affair, but the idea of them getting together behind Murdoch’s back and talking about his troubled marriage must have seemed to him at least as ‘humble’ a day as the one on which he was interrogated by a select committee of Parliament about the News of the World’s phone-hacking practices.

Perhaps our greatest pity this holiday should be reserved for Dick Cheney, the former vice-president of the United States, because for the first time ever he will be deprived of a happy family Christmas. That’s because his two daughters, Liz and Mary, once very close, and both enthusiastic supporters of their father in his political campaigns, are no longer on speaking terms. The rift came about when earlier this year Liz, running in Wyoming, Cheney’s home state, as a Republican candidate for the Senate, publicly stated her opposition to same-sex marriage — something that went down very badly indeed with her younger sister Mary, who is a legally married lesbian. Mary accused Liz of political opportunism to woo the right-wing Republican vote; Liz accused Mary of hypocrisy because she had campaigned for President George W. Bush, an opponent of same-sex marriage. The main victim is their father, who has struggled to be on both their sides.

All the people mentioned above have or have had privileged lives, but seem destined nevertheless to have a less than completely peaceful and contented Christmas holiday. So it’s nice to be able to pity rich people for a change. One doesn’t very often get the chance.


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