KK and the Jag, Family Fortunes, Teddy

Everyone wants to have the X Factor… and these youngsters have got the J Factor! I had a terrific time at Maidenhead’s synagogue this week, judging a contest called Jewish Kids Have Got Talent.

To get everybody’s energy flowing, and to remind the children that we can achieve anything when we believe in ourselves, I gave some mindpower demonstrations. And I didn’t let the chance slip to deliver my simple, hard-hitting message about the dangers of smoking, and the importance of setting high goals in education.

His caution flashed through my mind when ITV invited me, Hanna and Shipi to take part on their classic quiz show, Family Fortunes. But in the end we couldn’t resist, because the station was promising to fly Daniel and Natalie in from California to make up the team.

The host, Vernon Kay, promised us that the questions would be fun. “This is a family show in every way,” he told me — “the viewers as well as the contestants. It’s not University Challenge.”

Daniel and Natalie are brilliant kids, and they would have been completely relaxed with Jeremy Paxman firing the questions. But Paxo wouldn’t have asked them to dress up in sombreros and ponchos to sing a song about my adventures in Mexico when I helped the president find oil fields worth trillions of dollars.

The sight of my children waving marracas and shouting “Ariba! Ariba!” told me one thing for certain — they are both adoring life on America’s West Coast, and they seem to carry the sunshine with them wherever they go.

Our opponents were Atomic Kitten’s Liz McClarnon and her family, who were friendly and sweet. I am not allowed to reveal the result, or

even give a hint about the questions, until the show is aired, probably next year. But oh dear, oh dear, did I embarrass myself… I’ll never live it down.


The expenses scandal was at its height, and a new Speaker of the House of Commons was being elected, when my old friend invited me to dine with him at Westminster.

As we strolled down the corridors, with immense portraits staring down and Gothic rooms beyond every oak doorway (the House of Lords really is like a set from a Harry Potter movie) he told me with a sigh that the furore over moats and duckponds was holding up a lot of vital political work.

That’s the greatest danger of corruption: like a bad apple, it infects everything and rots it. Britain’s voters have decided that all politicians have got their hands in the till.

But some of the most positive, inspirational and dedicated people I have ever known are politicians — Nobel prizewinner and climate change campaigner Al Gore, for instance, and Red Cross advocate Micheline Calmy-Rey, the Swiss foreign minister.

And when the former Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda visited my home, I knew he was born to lead and to inspire. He is known as the Gandhi of Africa, and despite his 85 years he walks in an aura that filled me with hope for the future.

Before I even understood what he was campaigning for, I wanted to be part of it. And when he explained about his mission to end the Aids crisis in Africa and help the millions of children who are HIV positive, I knew he was advocating a cause that was already dear to my heart.

Weekly News readers who saw my column last week will know that Hanna, Shipi and I were so determined to help that we donated many of my mother’s clothes and possessions which until now I had not felt able to part with.

But that was just the start. Over the next two days we filled 25 bags with clothes, most of them barely worn, including all of the children’s outfits. We needed two vans to take it all away. And that wasn’t nearly enough.

I was shocked and deeply moved when KK told me he had lost his own son to Aids. “That was in December 1986,” he said, with tears in his eyes. “My son had a wife and five children, a family who loved him dearly, and we had to stand by him helplessly and watch as he suffered for a long time.

“He was a young man of such promise. And at that time, there was deep stigma about Aids. In Zambia, if a man died from this disease, the family would say it was malaria or tuberculosis.

“But I was the president, and I knew I had to fight that stigma. So two weeks after my son died, we issued a statement: we told the whole world, this was Aids.

“I talked to my family and said, ‘What do we do?’ And there was only one answer — we must tell the truth. That is what we have been doing ever since.”

The courage and leadership of that decision took my breath away. I wanted to make a gesture as bold — I wanted to make my own sacrifice for KK’s son and all the young people with Aids. So I gave President Kaunda my car.

It’s a long-base Jaguar limo, which I selected so I can stretch out my long legs in comfort in the back. But status symbols and comfort mean nothing, compared to the crucial importance of KK’s mission. It is an honour and a privilege to be able to help him.

Even if you don’t want a limo of your own, take a look at the auction site, look at the video KK and I made, and please donate a pound or two if you can spare it. Click here


My Steiff Teddy wasn’t feeling too great and had to be taken to the Wellfield Bear Hospital in Monmouthshire. Toy doctors Mike and Dan Waters soon had his fur glossy again.

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