Watching brief - Amanda Platell watches Posh fight back

How very curious: claims about Alastair Campbell had appeared all over the <em>Mail on Sunday</em> y

It was probably an indication of the devoted nature of the gathering that not one person asked Alastair Campbell at his An Audience With . . . on 23 May about revelations in the press that day. Was it true that the Prime Minister watched in "near-horror" as he tore into the BBC after the Andrew Gilligan "sexing up" accusations?

Was it true that Tony Blair thought he had "gone too far" in his war with the Beeb, had become a liability, was close to another breakdown, and that he wanted him out of Downing Street?

Was it true that his old friend Greg Dyke, then still director general of the BBC, said he'd "gone bloody barmy"?

All this and much more is contained in a new biography, Alastair Campbell, by Peter Oborne and Simon Walters, an extract from which had appeared in the Mail on Sunday. Perhaps the audience for Campbell's show were all broadsheet readers - but the posh papers had also reported the claim that Campbell and the Sun had colluded over the planning of news stories, especially on issues such as asylum.

The political Audience With . . . is a curious event. In most cases, the "star" is attempting to rewrite history before being written out of it. Campbell never mentioned Dr David Kelly or his own vendetta against the BBC in his two-hour show, even when he was asked to name his greatest mistakes in government.

He did admit to one big regret, and that was not getting rid of Gordon Brown's spin-doctor, Charlie Whelan, sooner. Incredible. The trust between the media and the government, and the people and the government, has never been lower, and Campbell and his spin-machine must take the blame. Yet his big regret is not booting Whelan out sooner (see Whelan's comments, page 37).

Campbell, a charismatic performer, spent a great deal of the show berating the media. He described one victory over the Daily Mail as "a moment of pure, unmitigated joy". I wonder if the resignations of Gavyn Davies and Greg Dyke were two other such moments.

The party season is upon us. Andrew Neil threw his annual birthday bash at his gorgeous home in South Kensington, attended by various editors past and present, including the Daily Telegraph's Martin Newland. Newland was overheard saying he hoped his newspaper would be purchased by Axel Springer, only to be told that the company's enforced withdrawal from the race was being splashed all over the Sunday Times the next day because its £550m bid fell short of expectations.

The story was ridiculed by some, but was confirmed in the Times a couple of days later. It looks as though the Barclay brothers are back in the race, much to the disappointment of some Telegraph executives.

Clare Short once warned the media that carrying pictures day after day of starving children in Africa was bringing on compassion fatigue. People become hardened to images of suffering if they are repeatedly exposed to them. Now, if my recent Tube journeys are anything to go by, we may be suffering from torture fatigue. People are increasingly turning over Iraqi torture pictures in their papers, broadsheet or red top. Since US organisations that are supposed to be highly secure keep leaking these pictures, one can't help but wonder if there is method in their madness.

The only celebrity story worth a mention this week, which even invaded the broadsheets at times, is Victoria Beckham's fight-back as she presents her side of the affair, sorry, the affair that never was, in Marie Claire.

By sheer coincidence, she has just returned from a secret mercy visit to the slums of Peru, so secret only the BBC filmed it. Now the world is asking, or actually her PR is briefing: is Posh the new Diana?

On the surface, there are many similarities: looking fab in Versace, plus having two sons, eating problems, undreamed-of wealth and allegedly unfaithful husbands. But the difference between the two is highlighted in the Marie Claire interview. While Diana was demure in Vogue when she wanted to make a point about her marriage, Victoria sits there with legs akimbo and a "look, no knickers" snigger, and says: "Dem's all lies, I got da most faithful 'usband I could 'ope for." Clearly hope is a waking dream in that marriage.

"All I want to do now is concentrate on my family," says Posh, without a trace of irony, as she launches her solo singing career for the 4,653rd time.

The PM made an elegant speech at the retirement party of the Evening Standard political editor Charles Reiss. He was particularly sweet to Charles's wife and daughters. On a lovely spring evening, the terrace at the RAC Club was the ideal setting for an affectionate farewell to a highly respected colleague.

This article first appeared in the 31 May 2004 issue of the New Statesman, Another fake