Women's pages proclaimed that I was a bad influence on young people

This year, my mantra will be: "Never apologise, never explain." This modus operandi has worked miracles for the Catholic Church over the centuries, and it hasn't done Lord Falconer any harm, either. It is the sort of ruthless, confident credo that will sit well with my part-time persona as the ambitious, pushy villain who smokes Gauloises while pregnant and besmirches a fine family name. It was after I had taken part in a programme on Radio 5 over Christmas that I plumped for this new slogan.

My eyes were red and sore from exhaustion, and my ulcer was throbbing from a combination of Bailey's and Chateauneuf-du-Pape, as I stumbled into the studio. Christine Hamilton and I had been invited to help listeners choose the year's biggest "turkey". The long list of unpopular celebrities and political losers had been narrowed down to Anthea Turner, John Prescott and William Hague. Christine insisted that Prescott was a failure mainly because he "already looks a bit like a turkey". I blearily chose Hague for his magnificent contribution to the teenage drinking debate last summer. The producer thanked us so profusely you would have thought the debate had been as stimulating as a Reith Lecture. In the car home, I pondered the similarities between Prescott, Turner and Hague, and concluded that they had all spent the year apologising for gaffes and attempting to defend their points of view. These are errors of which I, too, have been guilty.

Last March, on Michael Parkinson's Sunday radio show, I fumed that a heavily pregnant Cherie Blair was being treated like a "trophy wife" when she was paraded for the media during the PM's trips abroad. When the Sun and Mirror rushed to Cherie's aid and accused me of "jealousy", I couldn't resist the urge to defend myself. I wrote my own version of events so that I would be "understood", and this duly appeared in the Sunday Times. I even wrote an angry e-mail to the Sun, the last thing any sane person should do.

Then, in September, I wrote an article for the Sunday Express defending an expectant mother's (my) right not to be vilified for having an occasional fag or, more regularly, a glass of wine. Again, women's pages proclaimed that I was a bad influence on young people. At first, when researchers rang to ask me to "defend the smoking thing" on local radio, I hung up. But after a few days, I began to accept, and cheerfully appeared as guest pariah on every radio and TV show that asked me. The work rolled in, including an appearance in a BBC documentary going out later this year. It shows me heavily pregnant, talking about alcohol and parenthood. My segment was filmed in an imposing mansion in west London at 10am. The producer asked if he could show me in silhouette sipping wine. "All the other women have refused," he admitted. I said that was probably because this was a particularly incendiary shot, but agreed anyway. After five takes and three glasses of wine, the bottle looked three-quarters empty and the BBC had half an hour's footage of me draining a bottle of wine while eight months pregnant.

Another BBC researcher rang to ask me to appear on a show where I would be asked to "defend the indefensible" - in this case, smoking during pregnancy. I told her my baby had been born, and she eagerly asked: "And the baby . . . er, is she . . . you know . . . ?" She was clearly disappointed to find out that my daughter was perfectly healthy. I've heard nothing more. Still, when the BBC show with me slurping wine is aired, the phone will ring and this unrepentant baddy will be ready for work. To judge from Peter Mandelson's career curve, being ruthless is a role that pays well.

This article first appeared in the 15 January 2001 issue of the New Statesman, Dotcoms will rise again