The edge - Amanda Platell regrets criticising Cherie's thighs

When it comes to removing the stain of nastiness from the Tory party there is, as Blair might say, a

As the year draws to an end, we find ourselves with the first Tory leader for a quarter-century who has a whiff of victory about him, in a country that has finally learned to love Thatcher - her daughter Carol, as it happens. Yes, it was a week when the nation put vacuous celebrity aside (if you can do that on a TV game show) and voted for all those wonderfully unfashionable English traits of character: straightforwardness, humour, teamwork, a sense of the ridiculous and an absence of vanity. As the new queen of the jungle said on the day of her coronation: "You have to put a lot in to get a lot out." Thatcherism writ large.

I hope you're listening, David Cameron. He may have risen without trace, but the day may yet come when we look upon him as the man who put the Tory party back together again and, whatever your political persuasion, that can only be a good thing for Britain. I wish him well.

I was particularly struck, sitting on BBC1's Sunday AM sofa beside the shadow chancellor, that the world had indeed changed, moved on. Where once there was David Frost, now there was Andrew Marr; where once had sat Ken Clarke, now there was George Osborne. Aided and abetted by the considerable media skills of Nick Wood, David Davis fought an honourable fight against Cameron. And as Cameron ponders the future of Conservatism in this country and seeks ways to wipe that nasty smirk off his party's face once and for all, he should take a look at Michael Cockerell's typically masterful documentary How To Be Tory Leader, aired at the weekend.

In it, the former leadership hopeful and darling of the party Michael Portillo said: "William Hague's advisers were paranoid pygmies." Fair comment, even though I was one of those vertically challenged advisers. He went on: "They were people of no consequence."

Only a Tory like Portillo would believe that any human being was of no consequence. As Cameron's new adversary Tony Blair would say, when it comes to removing the stain of nastiness from the party, there's a lot done, a lot left to do.

Having watched the Channel 4 show Married to the Prime Minister, I can honestly say I do regret ever saying Cherie Blair had Lennox Lewis thighs. As she floated around No 10 telling us how hard life for the wife was, we were treated to footage of her generous charity work (but never once shown film of her money-making tour that left a children's cancer charity in Australia facing closure); her arduous duties answering letters as the PM's partner (but never the way she uses Downing Street to hold meetings for her own private work); and her complaints over intrusions into her family's privacy (but not the film clips of her children she uses on her increasingly lucrative overseas speaking engagements).

No, now I wish I had just commented on her Mike Tyson-sized arrogance.

Amid the weeping over George Best's long goodbye, spare a thought and a prayer for another great British sportsman who has just died, aged 34. Richard Burns was England's only World Rally champion. He fought bravely for two years against a brain tumour - no transplant hope there - a battle he lost on the same day Best died. There was no state occasion

to mourn his passing; he wasn't a drunk or a bully who beat up his wife; no wasted talent. Just a lost life, lived well, ending too soon.

And from me, another goodbye. Due to the pressure of work commitments, this is my last column for the New Statesman.

In the summer of 2001, in the twilight of the Hague leadership, Jackie Ashley sauntered up to me at a Conservative Party press conference. She had a message from Peter Wilby, the offer of a column for a soon-to-be-out-of-work Tory. It will keep you in champagne money, Peter said. What he didn't know was that over the next 18 months it kept me in mortgage money.

It also gave me the chance to write. I will be for ever grateful to Peter for giving me a voice and to you, the readers, for listening.

This article first appeared in the 12 December 2005 issue of the New Statesman, We achieved next to nothing