Watching brief - Amanda Platell learns from a death

There was an excruciating dignity about Anthony Walker's sister Dominique as she read what no sister

At a time when our society is fearful that the black guy is the bad guy, life presents us, in the midst of our prejudices, with a young black man who reminds us all that goodness lives in all communities and all colours. I can seldom remember being so moved by a death as I was by the murder of Anthony Walker in Huyton, Merseyside. We've seen press conferences with grieving families before, but there was an excruciating dignity and despair about his sister Dominique as she read something a sister never believes she will have to read: her little brother's eulogy.

A devout Christian, he was, she said, "the perfect son, a wonderful grandson, a loyal, reliable, loving and fun brother . . . He gave so much of his life to help other people." And so he may do in death, reminding the bigots that there is goodness in the heart and life of such a man.

At a time when the newspapers are full of young women binge drinking, teenagers taking drugs, reports of 50,000 rapes a year, marriage vows being rewritten to exclude references to love, it is a ray of hope to read about Anthony Walker, a Christian who refused to fight back, to be harried by hatred.

Reading about him makes us stop and question our own faith and commitment. When was the last time you saw an 18-year-old at church, or who did anything for anyone except themselves?

Visiting the place where he was cut down, Anthony's uncle said he prayed some good would come of his death, that it need not be an end, but a beginning of the healing of hatred. This plain-speaking family and their beautiful son did something all the archbishops and prime ministers in the world could never do. They reminded us of our own faiths; reminded us Christians that we believe that through suffering and death we find life, and above all that our faith is based on forgiveness. If Anthony's death triggers that reawakening in us, he will have achieved more than many of us ever have. I believe Dominique may be right, and that her brother will continue to "bless so many lives in his unique way".

Finally the truth is out about Paul Gascoigne, the former football star who has made a fortune out of his bestselling autobiography, Gazza: my story. In an effort to paint himself as a victim of his own excess, he skated over the way he brutalised his ex-wife. What he forgot was his cruelty to her children. Despite his efforts to injunct them, the Sun finally printed their story of life with Gazza. He convinced us he was struggling to conquer the monsters within, when in fact he was just a monster.

As our weary leaders head off for their well-deserved holidays, I am heartened by Tony Blair's guarantee that he - from Tuscany, we believe - the Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, from New England and the Defence Secretary, John Reid, will continue to fight against terrorism and defend our island. How Churchillian.

They will fight them on the beaches (of Majorca), they will fight them in the fields (of New England), they will fight in the hills (of Tuscany). How reassuring . . . for the terrorists.

At least we have our top man left in charge while the PM is away. If we get attacked by terrorists again, Prescott can punch them out.

My fellow newspaper reviewer Gyles Brandreth admitted on Peter Sissons's News 24 Sunday that he was wearing a thong even though the Sunday Times had reported a sharp decline in popularity of this undergarment. His explanation was that his new show in Edinburgh required him to wear tights, and his wardrobe lady had insisted on a thong to avoid visible panty lines. Which still did not explain why he was wearing one as he set off for a romantic weekend in Paris with his wife.

So Helen Fielding has signed up again to write Bridget Jones's Diary for its original home, the Independent. I was lunching at an adjoining table at the Savoy Grill when the Indie editor, Simon Kelner, clinched the incredible deal. Fielding looks wonderful, classy but not dripping with her new-found wealth. The big test will be how one of the greatest fictional characters of the early 1990s - the tortured, single Ms Jones - will translate to the 21st century, especially now her creator, a happily married mum-of-one, has well and truly left the world of singledom.

In his open farewell letter to News Corporation staff, Lachlan Murdoch writes: "I know how much many of your husbands and wives, children and friends sacrifice for this company, often with little official recognition." With a sweet heart like that, it's no wonder people are saying there is no place for him in the world of media.

This is Amanda Platell's last Watching Brief. From next week she will contribute a new column, The Edge. Peter Wilby will write a media column

This article first appeared in the 08 August 2005 issue of the New Statesman, Islam: the tide of change