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Why do we celebrate universally challenged?

Byline: Maureen Messent

YOU'D wonder, wouldn't you, at the sanity of a country that puts a brash ignoramus on a populist pedestal but writes off the self-effacing charm of a brain box as smug and unbearable?

But that's happened here this week as poor doomed Jade Goody has been hailed a heroine because she is terminally ill, while the towering intellect of bespectacled Latin scholar Gail Trimble is denounced in cyberspace.

Her critics deride the Corpus Christi College, Oxford, Latin student for what they describe as her "sickening" middle-class voice, her natural hair and face, and her surely understandable pride at being the undisputed Queen of University Challenge.

"I bet she's got a spotty back and hairy legs," wrote one of her obviously jealous detractors.

Gail's sole fault in a nation where to be highly educated is unpopular is her awesome general knowledge. She's light years away from the non-reading and celebrity struck wedge of British society, so these dullards have spent the week name-calling.

Now, I don't dismiss what some call the bravery of Jade Goody, who has married her thug-lover (just freed from prison after serving four months of an 18-month stretch for battering a 16-year-old with a golf iron).

But why the fervid admiration of Ms Goody and the carping at Ms Trimble?

Jade drew attention for her loud-mouthed ignorance on a couple of down-market reality shows. She shouted.

She roared. She bore an uncanny resemblance to boxer Mike Tyson. In short, she sounded and looked brutal.

Gail Trimble's knowledge on UC has astounded even quiz master Jeremy Paxman, himself no dunce. She's quietly-spoken and gently reared. She is, in fact, a lady to Jade Goody's street urchin.

But yet we mustn't mention a word of criticism of Jade because she's probably on her way out of life and, therefore, partly pre-beatified by the masses. Yet who is the best representative of Britain, do you reckon, between the disparate women?

(Don't you think Princess Diana is kicking herself for missing a grand photographic scoop in which she'd have sat tearfully beside Jade while announcing she was her new best friend?) So deep is the British infatuation with Goody that Justice Minister Jack Straw overrode Tweed's tagged status and allowed him to spend the night with his bride, thus paving the way for every malefactor to plead similar indulgence.

Like the general populace, I am chilled by the prospect of a young mother's death. But let's not kid ourselves that Jade Goody is the best of British.

"Gail Trimble is, in fact, a lady to Jade Goody's street urchin


Best of British?: University Challenge winner Gail Trimble. Below, reality TV star Jade Goody.
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Feb 27, 2009
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