Watching brief - Amanda Platell likes new Labour's new man

Sky's Adam Boulton was wise not to work for Blair. He would have been branded new Labour for ever. A

When Andrew Marr asked me, on Breakfast With Frost, how Tony Blair could win back trust, I suggested promoting politicians whom people respect, such as John Reid, who was appearing next on the show. He did not think praise from me was much of a career move, and said so.

But without wishing to damage the chances of another new Labour luminary, I would say the appointment of Matthew Taylor to Blair's kitchen cabinet is an astute one. He is clever, articulate and affable, and is that rarest of creatures: a socialist who understands Middle England without despising it.

New Labour needs him. Good men and women are now in short supply in its media operation (and a tenner to anyone who has heard the phrase "new Labour" uttered in the past year by anyone in the government).

With the departure of Alastair Campbell, in comes David Hill, but it appears he was not No10's first choice. Blair was keen to lure Adam Boulton, the highly regarded political editor of Sky News. He has been pursued with vast wads of cash to leave Sky on many occasions, so what on earth made Tony think he'd come for a fraction of his current salary to a ship that, if not actually sinking, has holes in it below the waterline?

It would have been a two-for-the-price-of-one bargain, as Boulton is now twinned with Blair's former special adviser Anji Hunter. But anyone who knows Hunter can't for a moment imagine her in a mudbath with Cherie and Carole Caplin, which appears these days to be the primary requirement for anyone working closely with the Blairs.

There are many reasons Boulton should not have taken the job - it would have meant the end of his journalistic career and his credibility, and a branding for ever with the new Labour rose - and no good reason why he should. All political careers end in failure, but not necessarily all journalistic ones.

Now, the PM will find it increasingly difficult to recruit good people to his media operation, partly because Campbell has already cornered the market on the Blair years diaries.

The media's most supine moment of the week came with the monthly Downing Street press briefing, held by the Prime Minister. Most of the hacks behaved like a bunch of love-struck teenagers at a Bay City Rollers concert. I didn't watch it all, having to leave the room to be sick every time Blair made a pathetic joke - heard the one about the Prime Minister who didn't even know how many troops he had sent to Iraq? - and the journos burst into sycophantic laughter. All credit to Channel 4's Elinor Goodman and Patrick O'Flynn of the Daily Express for having the balls to break from the pack and take Blair on.

The most exquisite moment of the week came just after Iain Duncan Smith, the Tory leader, attempted a quiet savaging of the Prime Minister on the Today programme over the way the government had treated Dr David Kelly, as revealed at the Hutton inquiry. IDS completely agreed with Blair's position on the war, but thought he had been unkind to the arms expert, and if he had been as unkind as it appeared, he must resign, surely, and soon. Devastating stuff. Clearly, the Tory prayer for the day is working a treat.

"We'll talk in a moment about the new policies you're announcing this week," Jim Naughtie dutifully said. "Before the policies unravel . . . I mean unfold - I didn't mean it, honest." Oh yes you did, Jim. But then, you only said what all of us listening were already thinking.

It was only a matter of time before the former new Labour luvvie Rosie Boycott, one-time editor of the Daily Express and now candidate-in-waiting for the Liberal Democrats, showed her true colours and started agreeing with Ann Widdecombe. (By the way, I am told there is no truth in rumours that Rosie has been promised a place in the House of Lords.)

Boycott and Widdecombe were singing from the same hymn sheet when asked by the Guardian's Media section what to do about the Today programme. Off with their goolies, was the considered response from both, and certainly off with the editorial freedom that has become its hallmark. John Humphrys has made it clear he would walk. Talk is that Naughtie would follow. They are two of the finest broadcasters in this country. Both men have excellent newspaper columns already, Humphrys in the Sunday Times and James Naughtie in the newly revamped Saturday Times, so I doubt they'd starve. But the show would collapse without them.

Today is indeed in danger, as shown by the comment of Gerald Kaufman, chairman of the Commons culture, media and sport committee: "It has outlived its shelf-life and cutting its throat would be the only way to improve it." Funny, that's exactly what most of his parliamentary colleagues say about him.

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