If Stella McCartney is so fond of her stepmum-to-be, why didn't she lend Heather a suitable outfit for the Oscars?

The UK Press Gazette British Press Awards are in trouble - with their own industry. Somewhat surprisingly, it was a relative newcomer to the business who set the most dangerous of precedents. This year, Richard Desmond did what many newspaper executives have threatened to do for years: he not only stopped his Express staff from taking tables at the event; he banned them from entering the competition at all.

Rebekah Wade and the News of the World also boycotted the event. After the NoW's exclusive sting that exposed the Countess of Wessex for what she is - a social climber who ruthlessly uses her royal connections while abusing said family behind their backs - Wade can be forgiven for thinking that her newspaper deserved to win something. It didn't. Meanwhile, there were rumblings from Associated Newspapers and News International. Both stables are clear market leaders, but neither won a major award.

One has to ask: is there either an anti-Murdoch militancy or an anti-commercial snobbery at work here?

Some dismiss discontent on the grounds that those newspapers are bad losers - there are no complaints from the big winners, the Mirror and the Guardian. The criticism has been taken seriously enough, though, for the editor of UK Press Gazette, Philippa Kennedy, to announce that she is searching for a "fresh approach" to the judging. But the idea of an electoral college, made up of 200 or so regional and former national editors, to do part of the judging, does not strike me as the perfect solution.

Greater transparency is required, and so is a form of judging that restores confidence to all parts of the industry.


Nothing could have dragged me away from GMTV's coverage of the Oscars last Monday. The line-up was more camp than M*A*S*H. The resident TV expert, Richard Arnold, was as always deliciously frank, and was joined by Ben de Lisi, the British designer, and some bloke with a big Eighties hairstyle who kept criticising actresses with, you guessed it, big Eighties hairstyles.

Kate Winslet wore a red dress by Ben de Lisi and ended up looking like a podgy mum from Muswell Hill with bad hair. You could only make her out from the red shag-pile carpet when she moved.

Eamonn Holmes and Kate Garraway manned the sofa. Was I the only one to detect a frisson between affable Eamonn and the Oscar link, Jackie Brambles? Only a blind man (or a man blinded) could honestly have thought she "looked like a million dollars" in that dress - or even a million euros. We're in lire territory here, Eamonn.

You'd think that if your old man was worth a few hundred million, you wouldn't have to borrow a frock for the night, but Paul McCartney's fiancee, Heather Mills, did. In her case, it was a rather nasty little black lace number by Bruce Oldfield. When it comes to style, Heather has something of the Fergie about her - most designers would pay good money for her not to wear their clothes. And if she and stepdaughter-to-be Stella are such great friends, why didn't the internationally acclaimed designer lend Heather an outfit?

Best dress and worst performance of the night went to Halle Berry, who won the Oscar for Best Actress. Berry said she was crying for women everywhere. I hadn't even had breakfast and I felt nauseous.

The industry's two most prestigious individual awards both went to black actors who had a message they wanted to deliver about race and prejudice in Hollywood. Denzel Washington (Best Actor) was magnificent - dignified, powerful and memorable, each word chosen and spoken with care. All we will remember of the Best Actress 2002 is the blubbing. Who did that serve, Halle?


The row between ITV Digital and the Football League over the £105m-a-year contract for showing league games is a game of one half. No one wins. Greed in the red strip, greed in the white.

ITV Digital (parent companies Carlton and Granada) faces insolvency, having agreed to pay too much for a product too few people wish to watch. There is too much money going into soccer - to the clubs, the players and the Football Association - from a business that's in deep trouble.

The league's cries of foul ring like those of a divorcing wife seeking £100,000-a-year maintenance from a husband who earns only £20,000: she argues that it's not her fault he's short of a bob or two, he should be earning £200,000, and why can't he hit his wealthy parents for the rest?

The latest ploy of the league chairman, Keith Harris, calling on all 14 million football fans to boycott ITV's top programmes - Coronation Street, Emmerdale Farm, Blind Date and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? - is not as ridiculous as it sounds. Soccer fans have a history of organising successful commercial blockades, such as that carried out against the Sun after its 1989 coverage of the Hillsborough tragedy.


Pop Idol's Gareth Gates says his post is now full of women's knickers. He thinks he is the new Tom Jones. Watching him perform his hit single, "Unchained Melody", the 17-year-old displayed about as much thumping testosterone as that other well-known sex god, Charles Clarke - now the plotters' favourite to replace the nation's political heart-throb, Tony Blair. It would do you good to remember, Gareth, that a few big pants do not a career make.