The edge - Zoe Williams has an age problem

So More4, the "adult entertainment channel", launches and we all have to accept, finally, that it is

Politicians are gregarious by their natures. It's a guess, but I reckon everyone in the country, by the time they reach a certain age, will have met an MP socially somewhere along the line. You can tell how posh you are by how soon it happens. If you went to a prominent public school, you'll know a member when you're 25 - a golden age, still young enough to enjoy sitting in your kitchen, defacing his campaign literature by drawing genitals on his forehead. If you went to a sink comprehensive, you'll probably be 50 by the time one of your peers claws its way through local politics to the giddy heights of Westminster. If you find yourself personally known to an MP before you reach 20, this makes you outlandishly posh, and you should probably have some kind of commemorative party, featuring a chocolate fountain and swan canapes. I find myself 32, an undistinguished and not-particularly-posh age, before someone I've met has made it into parliament.

Actually, Kitty Ussher has been Labour MP for Burnley since the last election, but you don't get as un-posh as I am by paying attention. We're not friends, but we must have toyed with the idea once, otherwise what would I have been doing sitting in her room at university, while a steady stream of young women came in for their free Tampax? She was the women's officer, you see - under her pioneering influence, sanitary products were given out for free, on the basis that they represented a significant part of the student budget, yet only girls had to buy them. She faced stiff opposition to this measure, specifically from some bloke who said, in that case, could all the men be given the extra 500 calories they needed daily, and furthermore, could they have them in the form of free Mars bars?

As a thumbnail sketch, this demonstrates all the qualities I've never associated with politicians: goodwill, persuasiveness, care, a fire hydrant of righteousness snuffing out any passing - though logically sound - smart-arse. Is she very unusual? Or are they all like that when they first start out?

So More4, the "adult entertainment channel", launches, and we all have to accept, finally, that it is not a porn channel. A lot of people worked this out from the prominence of Rory Bremner in its schedule, but I kept the faith - there's no reason why a person shouldn't be an incisive political commentator and have a 14-inch wanger and a mid-European accent.

The tease campaign that suggested its adult nature was, apparently, an ironic reference to the fact that you have to be grown-up to enjoy it. It was not, as commonly supposed, a sly dig at BBC4 ("so much more exciting, it might as well be porn!"). Tacitly, it was saying: "This is the kind of viewer we're after - an adult, sure; but not the kind of adult who finds pornography disgusting or immoral (that is, no over-sixties); not the kind of adult who finds it degrading to women (ie, no over-45s either); the kind of adult, therefore, who's sexy enough to know what porn is for and who's postmodern enough to take no offence from anything." It's those 24- to 35-year-olds again, in other words. So much is aimed at this demographic, media-wise, you'd think it had all the spending power in the nation. I hope that isn't true, otherwise we'll have to start giving our parents pocket money.

At the launch party for the non-adult-adult-entertainment channel, there were three non-hooker hookers at the entrance, doing non-sexy-Amsterdam-window-dancing for the postmodern, non-porn-watching guests. How droll. And inside the venue, there was a load of women I can only describe as totty. They must have been bussed in from the non-prostitute-model agency. This is where my wry smirk failed me a bit. Is that ironic, really? Or is it more along the lines of: "Men like a little something to look at, and let's face it, none of the lady guests is going to be that important anyway"? Yowsers, I am not postmodern enough for this channel. Maybe I am over 45, and lost some years to crack addiction. Maybe I should stick to BBC4 and be grateful.

Amanda Platell is away

This article first appeared in the 17 October 2005 issue of the New Statesman, Barack Obama