The edge - Amanda Platell read's Jordan's life story

Millions of young people strive for the fast track of winning a reality TV show. To them, being "sel

I cannot remember a time of greater social introspection, not in the 20 years I've lived in this country. Daily we are faced with the questions: what does it mean to be British; what should it mean; do you pass the test for Britishness? And we are not talking cricket here. Please, anything but the cricket! The Tory leadership contenders Davids Davis and Cameron ponder these questions daily. So, too, do the government and the media. But instead of trying to work out what it should mean to be British, I am struck by what it is becoming. In place of a nation defined by a Protestant work ethic, increasingly we have the celebrity work ethic. Millions of young people strive not for a good education followed by a decent job, but for the fast track of winning a reality TV show. To them being "self-made" means cosmetic surgery and breast implants.

To see how far we have strayed from what we were, we need look no further than that great tradition and bastion of Britishness, the autobiography. Now, even that most respectable publishing establishment Random House has turned red top in its quest for a quick return. It has just signed the page-three model Jordan, famous for nothing more than taking her clothes off to reveal her double-F fake breasts, and falling in love with the failed pop star Peter Andre (recently voted the Unsexiest Man on the Planet, beating Michael Jackson into second place) on I'm a Celebrity . . . Get Me Out Of Here!

Such trivia would normally sink below our radar, but when Random House gives Jordan a three-book deal - two novels (for a woman who struggles to write her own name) plus a second autobiography - we do really need to pause and think what this says about Britain and the values it purports to hold.

The stripper's first autobiography, Being Jordan, chronicles her failed love affair with a footballer and the birth of her handicapped child. The second autobiography will cover the birth of her second child and her marriage to Peter Andre. The first sold almost 500,000 copies. It is unutterable tripe, pandering to the lowest common denominator and the lowest imaginable values. No doubt the second "autobiography" will do even better. But it does leave you wondering, since when did a book covering a couple of years of a topless model's tawdry life constitute an autobiography? And what does it say about us that we pay millions to such people who exist only through their celebrity; for whom a hard day's work is getting their nipples out for the cameras; for whom love and marriage are things to be found on a reality TV show and sold on for millions at every possible opportunity (£1.75m to OK! magazine, in the case of Jordan and Pete)?

For millions of people, I guess, that is what it now means to be British.

Much was said about his integrity - mostly by the man himself - when David Blunkett was finally forced to resign over the expediting of his married lover's nanny's visa. Everything he had done, he said, was for the sake of the "wee lad", his son by the wealthy socialite Kimberly Fortier. Now he's at it again, trying to stop the broadcast of Channel 4's drama about the affair, entitled A Very Social Secretary.

Blunkett is concerned about the effect the programme could have on his son. As the wee lad is still a toddler, one can only conclude that what the Work and Pensions Secretary is really concerned about is the effect the programme will have on his own ambitions.

Unimaginable, isn't it, that any good could come of the 7 July bombings, but finally it has. The most dreary woman in Britain (the actress Gwyneth Paltrow) and her equally soporific singer husband, Chris Martin, are fleeing London for Los Angeles, where they believe it will be safer for them and their baby, Apple. Curious, though, why they should be afraid for their lives, given that these multimillionaires are likely to be as familiar with public transport as our dear Prime Minister.

This article first appeared in the 05 September 2005 issue of the New Statesman, Ground zilch: how Al-Qaeda defeated New York