The question has to be how long it will last. Is the adoption of David Banda a commitment for life? Or is he simply a fashion accessory who, like the latest husband in the volatile world of celebrity, can be cast of when the mood dictates?

On the answer to that question much depends. Has the Material Girl, as she claims, now entered a spiritual world, where the well-being of the twelve million children orphaned in Africa by AIDS is a pressing concern? Or has she merely seen, like Diana Princess of Wales, that compassion is good for publicity?

The adoption has certainly highlighted a crisis; and the apparent confusion of David’s father about whether he was really signing away all claims to his child for life has added a personal poignancy to what might otherwise be raw statistics. But there is more. ‘I would like to get the adoption laws changed, because I consider what is going on in Africa a state of emergency,’ Madonna has said. ‘When you have an entire adult population wiped out and no one to look after these children, you’ve got to address the laws and make adoption easier for people.’

So the questions deepen. Is adoption by wealthy families in the developed world a solution to the undoubted crisis? Is it viable? Is it even desirable? The President of Malawi seems to think so. But civil rights activists in England have been seeking to reverse the adoption decision in the Malawi courts.

What is certain is that, when Madonna adopts a child, everybody adopts an opinion. Madonna herself blames the media for manufacturing a crisis where there was none. The press accuses Madonna of seeking publicity for publicity’s sake. The case has been discussed in the highest court of American opinion – the Oprah Winfrey Show. Short of a full dress debate in the United Nations it could not have received greater attention.

New Directions has, as yet, no opinion at all. Except this: that an adoption is always about the child, seldom, if ever, about the parent. It is far from certain that David has found a mother. But there is no doubt that Madonna is looking less ‘like a virgin’ than ever she did.

Geoffrey Kirk