So Gail Trimble, captain of the Corpus Christi College team that won University Challenge last night, has attracted the attentions of the tabloid bullies for being just so damn clever. The Sun is patting itself on the back for having caught her out in a series of pub quiz-style questions and bloggers have piled in to vent some particularly vicious bile. As this article from the Times points out, all of this is reminiscent of the treatment first meted out to Jade Goody before we reincarnated her as a latterday Princess Diana:

Let’s get one thing straight: I admire both women. Goody for her dogged determination in the face of appalling adversity and Trimble for simply being herself. I love University Challenge – it’s my favourite sofa sport. Never mind that I only recognise around four classical composers and my brain implodes when they do those calculation thingies…I still shout out at the telly. Trimble, as everyone agrees, is in a league of her own, the ‘female Stephen Fry,’ possibly ‘the cleverest contestant ever.’ She is idiosyncratic, reminding me of those fabulously doughty British women from another era who swept all before them with eccentric charm and derring do.

But why all the vitriol in the press and online? Trimble has been quoted as saying she doesn’t feel she would have been treated the same way ‘were I a man’ and she’s probably right. Some have suggested it’s because she’s clever but I don’t think that’s the whole story. Jade Goody, if you remember, was derided for being dumb enough not to know the location of East Anglia amongst other things. What I think is at work here is bad, old-fashioned bullying based on the commonest of reasons: Gail Trimble is different. She’s otherworldly, courteous and shiningly bright, ergo Not One Of Us. What a shame that as a nation we still deride the outstanding