IT is truly disturbing how every day brings another startling example of how far into the dumper the UK has slid.

I can’t believe that I am alone in thinking the descent is irreversible and that the collective IQ of vast swathes of the UK population now equates to that of a cheeseburger.

In making the observation I am thinking of the frenzied media scramble following the birth of a baby girl to a 13-year-old boy and 15-year-old girl, and the impending death of cancer-stricken Jade Goody. The absence of anything approaching dignity in both cases has made my toes curl.

The fact that two schoolchildren have been “at it” isn’t the sole reason for my discomfort. The UK has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe, with gymslip mums part of the landscape, which is hardly surprising, given that the age of innocence ends when youngsters are given access to television and computer images which leave little, if anything, to the imagination.

However, who is going to provide for, and rear the baby certainly does bother me. When asked “What will you do financially?”, the alleged father, Alfie Patten, reportedly answered “What’s financially?”, which triggered sarcastic gags, suggesting that while he may not be the brightest button in the box, there’s nothing wrong with his genitals.

However, other teenagers have come forward, saying that they, not wee Alfie, who looks about eight years old, are the dad. I’m certain their motives are not concern for the welfare of the child and the need to contribute financially. They want access to tabloid exposure and the cash generated by it.

Step forward publicity guru Max Clifford. Dear Max; if he wasn’t around, we would have to invent him, such is the tidal wave of humanity, desperate for its 15 minutes of fame and the money which goes with it.

That is why thousands audition for the execrable TV reality show Big Brother, in which embarrassment and humiliation are essential ingredients.

That brings us to Jade Goody, who has lived almost permanently in the glare of publicity since Big Brother made her a “celeb”, notwithstanding the fact that she was exposed as “educationally challenged”. Yet, guided by Max, she became “famous”, quite for what God only knows, although Mr Clifford could probably provide the answer. He, more than anyone, understands the public’s insatiable thirst for inconsequential tat, and has made a fortune for himself, and his clients. Who could ever forget: “Freddie Starr ate my hamster?”

Jade is dying, but, aided by the faithful Max, will go out as she has lived the past few years, in front of camera, bald head and collagen-lip enhancement making her look like a sad, stranded, cod fish. Max says she is providing for her two boys, and the tearful wedding pictures of her planned marriage to Jack, her partner, will no doubt be auctioned to boost that fund.

The intention is laudable but Jade’s looming departure, and the arrival of Alfie’s baby, are events which, in more civilised, pre-Max Clifford times, wouldn’t have seen the light of day, let alone made screaming headlines.