Watching brief - Amanda Platell praises the Sun

All credit to Trevor Kavanagh of the Sun for getting the political scoop of the year on the EU refer

When the Sun's legendary political editor, Trevor Kavanagh, broke the story on 6 April that Tony Blair was going to hold a referendum on the EU constitution, I had a sense of deja vu. And I was right. He had, in fact - on 16 October - written a story, "PM set for U-turn", quoting Sir Stephen Wall, who said that Blair's position was "untenable". It was a brilliant coup, one of the most important political stories of the year.

Yet instead of plaudits, Kavanagh received a lot of sneering about how the scoop had been handed to him on a plate, a sweet deal between Blair and Rupert Murdoch. What rubbish. You have only to look at the PM's exquisite embarrassment in the Commons on Tuesday and the fury within his own cabinet to see that the unplanned release of the decision to hold a referendum has damaged him politically.

He and the No 10 spin machine have been playing catch-up ever since, and not very successfully.

So credit where it's due. When I worked for William Hague I came face to face with the formidable talents and contacts of Kavanagh. He would often find things out before even we knew them.

But was it Murdoch wot won the referendum? The politically naive may believe that Rupert calls Tony and says, "Eh, mate, about that referendum. You either give it to me or I'll put your head in a light bulb at the next election."

I don't think there's a single person in the country, except Sandra Howard, who thinks Blair can lose the next election, so why would he need to do deals with anyone? And why, in particular, would he negotiate with Murdoch, who humiliates him both at home and in Europe (and remember, that really matters to the Europhile Blair)? Blair doesn't need to cut deals for as long as he is so electorally secure.

Much as it irks the left, surely the Daily Mail deserves as much credit as anyone else for forcing the hand of the PM by campaigning relentlessly for a referendum and ultimately holding one of its own.

Oh dear, what is happening to my beloved Today programme? On Monday, Sarah Montague spent the first couple of minutes of an interview with the artistic director of the Old Vic Theatre asking after his health, following an incident in a park at 4am on Saturday morning in which he was mugged.

Anyone not in the metropolitan know, and who was unaware of the rumours - unsubstantiated and vehemently denied, I hasten to add - about Kevin Spacey's sexuality would have been perplexed. Montague finally got up the courage to ask him if the innuendo in a Daily Mirror exclusive had anything to do with him "being a Hollywood star". Obtuse or what? It was a gruesome piece of radio, but worse was yet to come.

Tuesday, 8.22am. It's Ground Dog Day.

Off the back of the Spacey story, Montague was blathering on about the 13,000 incidents a year in which people are injured walking their dogs. I fear it was an attempt at irony. It failed.

Post Peter Mandelson's outing on Newsnight by Matthew Parris, the BBC is intensely sensitive to issues of sexuality. But if the Today programme is not adult enough to find a form of words to address the real question behind this story - the question of Spacey's sexuality and the allegation that he was cottaging that night - then why do the story at all?

This coy, nod-nod, wink-wink brand of journalism is not worthy of the programme.

Struggling to explain why he had so many problems with the press as Tony Blair's spin-doctor, Alastair Campbell told the Western Daily Press in Bristol that he thought it had much to do with the Westminster press being "very homoerotic".

I fear poor Alastair has too much time on his hands these days to think. Outside of a Premier League dressing room, it's hard to think of a more testosterone-charged bunch of men than those who inhabit the lobby. I, for one, would love to be there when Alastair calls the Guardian's Michael White or the Times's Phil Webster a big girl's blouse.

As I recall, the more effete members of the lobby tended to be the new-Labour lickspittles, who gave him not one jot of trouble and happily ran every story he ever did spin them, true or not.

For the past two weeks, I have been sitting in for Jeremy Vine on his BBC Radio 2 show. Although I loved it, I'm not sure what the audience thought, especially after I committed a cardinal sin - I talked over Elvis. That's like reading out David Beckham's sex texts and accidentally filling in all the asterisks. The Vine team is small and perfectly formed. So the next time I start complaining about the BBC licence fee, I'll remind myself of the value for money we get from that lot.

Next Article