Watching brief - Amanda Platell suspects Michael Portillo's motives

Portillo screams "It should have been me", Beckham fakes it at midnight and the Today programme gets

Two aspects of Michael Howard's campaign have been remarkable - the genuine appeal of his wife, Sandra, and the unity of the Tory party.

It was a true feat of leadership that Howard had managed to keep the left and right united, the pro-Europeans and Eurosceptics coexisting. There had been none of the backstabbing that will for ever define the 2001 campaign.

Until week three of the campaign, that is, when the one-time Tory minister, all-time wannabe leader and former MP Michael Portillo could bite his lip no longer. On BBC1's This Week and then in his Sunday Times column, he launched an attack on Howard's campaign, his every comment screaming, "It should have been me." Believing it was his destiny to step into Margaret Thatcher's shoes, Portillo has been resentful of every person who has occupied that position, even though, for many voters, he is the embodiment of the perceived arrogance, elitism and nastiness that has haunted the Conservatives. I hate to make such a serious criticism of a fellow New Statesman columnist, but why did Portillo speak out ten days before the election, knowing it would damage his party's chances? Does it mark him out as a man of integrity, or just a cash Conservative?

Few would deny that Robin Cook is a man of integrity, yet despite the most severe provocation on 24 April, when the Mail on Sunday ran leaked documents from the Attorney General claiming that the war in Iraq was illegal, Cook did not turn traitor or cash in on his bitterness. Portillo makes much of the lessons the Tories can learn from new Labour. Alas for all Tories, loyalty is not among them.

Speaking of loyalty, when Tony Blair made his speech on saving Africa, he enlisted none other than the lefty luvvies' favourite, Bill Clinton. Funny that, for a major set-piece speech of his, and just as the Liberal Democrats were launching their Iraq push, Blair didn't ask President George W Bush to share centre-stage with him.

Of all the lies of the 21st century - "I'll still respect Gordon in the morning" or "It's just a bit of colour I picked up in the back garden" - the greatest of them all must surely be that viewers hate confrontational TV. If that were true, we would not be obsessing with whether Jeremy Paxman had gone too far, or been too rude, in his three BBC interviews with the political leaders.

In what is fast becoming the most colourless of election campaigns, Paxman is actually creating news. When he was scathingly described as nothing more than a panto dame, it came close to the mark. For many elections to come, we will be shouting at whoever is leading the parties: "He's behind you!"

I'm not sure what surprised me most. First there was the news that David and Victoria Beckham had failed to injunct the News of the World and their former nanny Abbie Gibson, resulting in the headline: "The rows, the affairs . . . How he threatened to ditch Posh, by the nanny who saw it ALL!"

Then Beckham allegedly called his heavily pregnant wife a "f***ing bitch" and threatened to leave her. Then there was the revelation that this byword for masculine perfection had insisted that hotel staff be roused in the middle of the night to administer a fake tan.

Whether these be the twisted tales of a sacked nanny or a Posh plot for the sympathy vote, any woman who has to compete with her husband for a nocturnal sunbed has my sympathies.

There are moments when the Today programme makes devotees wonder why they even bother, and that moment came for me on Monday, the 90th anniversary of Anzac Day. It is arguably Australia's and New Zealand's most important national day, marking their first major military action during the First World War. Our losses were heavy, as were those of the Turks.The day is important to Australians, as it marks the beginning of our emergence from "king and country" into being a nation. It is also the real starting point for the Australian republican movement, as many Australians cannot forgive the way their troops were used so casually by their British masters.

So, to hear the one interview conducted by Jonny Dymond from Anzac Cove, in which one woman said there was no ill-feeling towards the British, makes you wonder why the BBC bothers spending our money to send its correspondents abroad armed only with ignorance.

There is a lot to admire in Liz Hurley - business acumen, shunning Steve Bing's billions, and her fabulous figure at 40. But we cannot allow her to get away with the claim that she is giving up acting to concentrate on being a mum. Liz's acting makes Madonna's look like Oscar-winning stuff. For her to say she wants to give up the movies is rather like me saying I'm giving up bottom modelling.

This article first appeared in the 02 May 2005 issue of the New Statesman, Could the future be yellow?