Watching brief - Amanda Platell cheers on Rolf Harris

The Andrew Marr/Tory leadership steeplechase, a tempestuous week for weather watchers, and why Rolf

Two top-job vacancies, two winning cups, one poisoned, one a chalice. Yes, the race is on for the next Tory leader and the new BBC political editor - and the beauty parades have begun.

Andrew Marr was considered an unqualified success, his perky populist touch based on a hinterland of deep political knowledge. He was also formerly a newspaperman, so instead of the usual runners and riders among the TV correspondents, we will examine the hack pack. And there are some spooky similarities between the front runners in the two contests.

The David Davis heavy hitter for the job of BBC political editor would have to be Trevor Kavanagh of the Sun. Despite some silly interviews during the election - five-a-night Blair, for example - he is the foremost political editor of his generation, has done a lot of characterful TV lately and, as a Sean Connery lookalike, has Davis's matinee-idol looks.

The Daily Mail's erudite, bright and charming new political editor, Ben Brogan, has to be the Malcolm Rifkind of the pack. Discrepancies in height aside, only Peter Oborne could run as the Liam Fox candidate - passionate, excellent on television (increasingly so in Oborne's case) and old Tory to the core.

The BBC's charismatic parliamentary correspondent James Landale, formerly of the Times, has had a good election, and with his posh Old Etonian background could run easily as the young, modernising, hand-holding (not hand-wringing) George Osborne.

The Telegraph's Rachel Sylvester is the David Cameron of the pack: modern, appealing to women and an arch-Notting Hill-billy to her blue-stockinged toes.

And then the outsiders for the job - Simon Walters of the Mail on Sunday (handsome, fearless and one of the best operators around); the Guardian's Jackie Ashley (elegant, considered and clever, and as she is also Mrs Marr her appointment would keep the job in the family); and the Times's columnist/ former political journalist Andrew Pierce (waspish, great on TV and one of the best story-getters around). This lot makes the current Tory racecard look rather tame.

If ever anyone personified the tragedy of modern celebrity, it is Paul Gascoigne. As the former millionaire footballer fled to the US to a clinic where he will be treated, not for booze or drugs or wife-bashing this time, but depression, he told the News of the World that he couldn't live without football.

Sadly, football can live without him.

But was it desperation or just a publicity stunt for his next venture, a self-help book called Facing Your Fears? His recent autobiography was a bestseller because it recalled the utter self-destruction of a gifted human being. So why on earth would anyone want any self-help advice from a man so clearly incapable of helping himself?

The BBC is so very PC these days, it must have employed a blind person to design its new weather map. Gone are all the symbols we were familiar with and in their place is a virtual-reality map, consisting of rain that appears to be always falling over the entire United Kingdom, and various shades of brown that indicate the degree of sunshine.

To the viewer who called in and said it was not much good on their black-and-white TV, let me tell you, it's not much good in colour either. Our green and pleasant land has been transformed into what looks for all the world like the coastal outpourings of a giant effluent plant.

The once-gorgeous Cheers star Kirstie Alley has spent the past decade saying of her 21-stone-plus figure that size doesn't matter. Not until you become the front and back-and-side woman for a slimming company, of course. She now says, having lost 2st 4lb, that it wasn't so great after all and she was too fat for sex. Without wishing to be unsisterly, Kirstie, at 19 stone that may still be the case, I fear.

The Guardian is at its best when it is a left-leaning, story-breaking newspaper at the cutting edge of current affairs and culture, as it often is. It is at its worst when it shows itself to be a horrible snob, as it did on Saturday, sneeringly announcing on its front page that the Queen had chosen Rolf Harris to paint her 80th-birthday portrait. Art is one of the hardest subjects to cover on TV. Rolf on Art regularly brought in six million viewers a week, which is probably more people than read the Guardian's arts section over the course of a whole year.

Finally, the mystery of the Tony Blair and Gordon Brown Ikea photo opportunity can be revealed. A new book called Great Ikea!: a brand for all the people says assembling a flat-pack enables men to demonstrate their hunter-gatherer roots and re-establish their masculinity. Ah, so Blair and Brown were reaching out to female voters when they tucked into their canteen meatballs.

This article first appeared in the 23 May 2005 issue of the New Statesman, The nuclear charm offensive