Glenn Close got 2,500 people to stand up and chant "cunt". She could have just gone to a football match

The choice, I must admit, is a difficult one. To creatively spoil one's ballot paper or to not vote at all? This is not some kind of new pose for me. After all, give me something worth voting vote for - Celebrity Big Brother - and I can't get to the phone quick enough. Nor am I of the "How could it have to come to this?" mob of those once infatuated with Tony Blair who have finally found out that he is not the man they thought he was. I never thought he was "the man" in the first place, which is why I didn't vote for him last time around. Even then, I was lectured for being immature because I did not fully appreciate the charms of new Labour.

Since I declared my non-voting intention in my Mail on Sunday column nearly two weeks ago, I have again been ticked off. I must say, you get a better class of hate mail at the Mail - vile abuse, yes, but on little floral notelets. That, I can cope with; it's the patronising rants from other hacks I cannot tolerate. Why do they presume that their job is to be little more than glorified cheerleaders for the government? Leave that to Geri Halliwell. The argument that one must vote amounts to the "You must eat your food because there are children starving in Africa" argument, which never worked for me either. Just as one can be well aware of and concerned about starvation and still not want to eat the food in front of you, so can one be aware of the lack of democracy in places such as North Korea and still not want to vote in this election. This is nothing to do with apathy. It is the opposite. It is anger. And it is growing.

Apart from feeling irritated by this pointless election, I am actually quite mellow at the moment, enjoying life with my new baby. As I haven't been out much, I find that there are great tranches of popular culture that pass me by completely. I haven't read Captain Corelli's Ukulele, seen Bridget Jones's Journal or Tracey Emin's latest display of sexual dyslexia. But this is no handicap whatsoever to engaging in any in-depth discussion of them. Anyway, when it comes to keying into the zeitgeist, everything can be summed up, I'm sure, by a phrase I heard the other day: "Soup is the new salad."

Part of the problem is that, when I do go out, I seem to act as a beacon for every "older" woman who wants a baby. They sidle up, these professionals, and say: "You don't mind me asking, how old are you?" Most women in the media knock a couple of years off their age. When I tell them that I'm 42, they look relieved. You can tell what they're thinking: they could still do it, get pregnant for the first time or squeeze out another one. A sign of the times is the question: "Was it assisted?" As I have had a baby in my twenties, thirties and now forties, I would always encourage women just to get on with it - but more and more women are waiting. When I had an ectopic pregnancy some time ago, I was moaning to my lovely doctor that this meant I was already too old, that we were really designed to have babies when we were 17. "Yes," he said, "and if you take that model, to die in childbirth at 25." He told me he spent much of his time trying to impregnate his female colleagues - not personally, obviously. He told me that none of them wanted to get pregnant until they were consultants, which meant they were at least 38.

What would my doctor make of Eve Ensler's Vagina Monologues? I haven't seen it, but I have read the book, and am astonished that such 1970s-style consciousness-raising is back in fashion. All this "If your vagina could talk what would it say?" stuff is just so American. Clearly, no British vaginas were asked, as none of them says: "I've got a headache." Still, it's all in a good cause. And if the idea of reclaiming the word "vagina" floats your boat, then this one's for you. Cunt, however, is a different matter - although I see it appearing regularly in the Guardian. One "Vagina Occurrence" that Ensler reports quite seriously is that "Glenn Close gets 2,500 people to stand up and chant the word cunt". Radical. She could have just gone to a football match.

Lately I have been preoccupied with thinking about how to organise a welcoming ceremony for our baby. A christening would be hypocritical, but we feel that the birth of a child is something to be celebrated and marked with some kind of ritual. The more funerals I go to, the more I think we must honour life as well. Another good reason to want an alter-native baptism is that Ann Widdecombe is against them. Actually, having to come up with a secular ceremony has forced me to question what I do believe in. At first, one gets excited by reading about what other cultures do. The Balinese spend three days on their ceremony, which ends with the child's ears being pierced by the grandmother. I was much taken with the Aboriginal "Baby Smoking", in which the grandmother holds the baby over the smoke of a special fire while the mother squeezes her milk into it - this links the child back to the ancestors from the time of creation.

The fact is, though, we are a motley crew who live in Hackney, not the bush. So we need somehow to create a sacred space, and we need to use symbols that are meaningful. Water, oil and light seem to be universals that are used everywhere in such ceremonies, so we will start from there.

"Will your dad think it too weird?" I asked my partner, who is Irish Catholic. "Oh no," he said. If we dressed in saffron robes, sacrificed chickens, flew kites and ate placenta canapes, his dad wouldn't think it was weird at all, he told me. "Just Protestant."

Suzanne Moore is a writer for the Guardian and the New Statesman. She writes the weekly “Telling Tales” column in the NS.

This article first appeared in the 21 May 2001 issue of the New Statesman, A spin too far

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Lord Geoffrey Howe dies, age 88

Howe was Margaret Thatcher's longest serving Cabinet minister – and the man credited with precipitating her downfall.

The former Conservative chancellor Lord Howe, a key figure in the Thatcher government, has died of a suspected heart attack, his family has said. He was 88.

Geoffrey Howe was the longest-serving member of Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet, playing a key role in both her government and her downfall. Born in Port Talbot in 1926, he began his career as a lawyer, and was first elected to parliament in 1964, but lost his seat just 18 months later.

Returning as MP for Reigate in the Conservative election victory of 1970, he served in the government of Edward Heath, first as Solicitor General for England & Wales, then as a Minister of State for Trade. When Margaret Thatcher became opposition leader in 1975, she named Howe as her shadow chancellor.

He retained this brief when the party returned to government in 1979. In the controversial budget of 1981, he outlined a radical monetarist programme, abandoning then-mainstream economic thinking by attempting to rapidly tackle the deficit at a time of recession and unemployment. Following the 1983 election, he was appointed as foreign secretary, in which post he negotiated the return of Hong Kong to China.

In 1989, Thatcher demoted Howe to the position of leader of the house and deputy prime minister. And on 1 November 1990, following disagreements over Britain's relationship with Europe, he resigned from the Cabinet altogether. 

Twelve days later, in a powerful speech explaining his resignation, he attacked the prime minister's attitude to Brussels, and called on his former colleagues to "consider their own response to the tragic conflict of loyalties with which I have myself wrestled for perhaps too long".

Labour Chancellor Denis Healey once described an attack from Howe as "like being savaged by a dead sheep" - but his resignation speech is widely credited for triggering the process that led to Thatcher's downfall. Nine days later, her premiership was over.

Howe retired from the Commons in 1992, and was made a life peer as Baron Howe of Aberavon. He later said that his resignation speech "was not intended as a challenge, it was intended as a way of summarising the importance of Europe". 

Nonetheless, he added: "I am sure that, without [Thatcher's] resignation, we would not have won the 1992 election... If there had been a Labour government from 1992 onwards, New Labour would never have been born."

Jonn Elledge is the editor of the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @JonnElledge.