Watching Brief - Amanda Platell

If it can't bury bad news beneath a real funeral, <em>a la</em> Jo Moore, this government is prepare

One of new Labour's greatest achievements has been to create an unprecedented cynicism about the political process among British people.

Never have I seen this contempt demonstrated more plainly than last Sunday night, when I turned up at the BBC's Birmingham studios to do a radio talk show. The donation of £100,000 to the Labour Party by Richard Desmond, owner of the Express - which preceded Stephen Byers's surprise decision not to refer the sale of the newspaper group to the Competition Commission - had been wiped off as the lead news item by Peter Hain, the minister for Europe.

The claim by Hain that a minority of British Muslims were isolationist and therefore vulnerable to extremists sparked a predictable race row, which then led the news agenda.

"It's what they do all the time," said the young, Labour-supporting BBC researcher. "If the government's in a mess, as it is over Byers and the Express donation, they just stir up a race row."

Whether this is true or not - and there are certainly plenty of precedents - the cynicism with which even young, well-educated, well-intentioned Labour supporters view this government and its media management is striking.

It appears that if it can't bury bad news beneath a real funeral, a la Jo Moore, this government is perfectly prepared to create its own cadaver.

A race row is the ideal diversionary tactic because it flares up, then dies down just as quickly, starved of the oxygen of honest discussion. Few politicians in this country have the guts or the integrity to talk truthfully about the race issues facing Britain and Europe today.

As I discovered that night, there is a debate taking place in this country about asylum, immigration and cultural isolationism - but it is taking place in our communities and on the radio. I was half expecting a barrage of racist comments when we chose Hain's charge as the subject of the phone-in, but I couldn't have been more wrong.

What a tragedy for us all that our politicians - left and right - can't find the courage to take part in the discussion.

At last, a role has been found for the millionaire Tory turncoat Shaun Woodward, now Labour MP for St Helens South. Enter the self-styled defender of the government's decision to house asylum-seekers in what the Labour Party described as "concentration camps" when the Tories put the idea forward at the last election.

Woodward, eager to demonstrate his media skills, drank greedily from the poisoned chalice and appeared on every available radio and television show explaining - in a caring, moist-eyed kind of way - that the detention centres were a possible solution.

The man whose favoured boast, before he became a socialist, was that even his butler had a butler began his carefully orchestrated return to front-line politics through an interview with the Guardian in which he portrayed himself as victim, principled underdog (but not lapdog) and devoted constituency MP.

All of which just happen to be the same rehabilitation pattern and modest claims made by his new best friend and recent lodger, Peter Mandelson, after his fall from grace.

I'm convinced that Nigella Lawson has lived her life to the deafening accompaniment of an all-male chorus of "I love you just the way you are" - and deservedly so. Like every woman who has spent decades failing to get into a pair of size 10 Levi 501s, I have always been a big fan of Nigella's, however big she happened to be.

But I am mystified as to why the Daily Mail has suddenly decreed that she has lost weight and achieved a "perfect hourglass shape". She looks exactly the same to me.

Nigella has always had great curves, even if they do get a bit "sticky-out" at times (her words, not mine). Forty-two, mother of two, girlfriend of one of London's most delectable bachelors, Charles Saatchi, and a size 14-plus. Now that's what I call a role model.

I have nothing against marriage, nor people making money out of being married. But you'd think Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi would have enough stashed away between them not to have to stoop to doing television commercials, even if they were good ones. T-Mobile has managed to transform the golden couple of tennis into TV's wooden tops.

The ad says: "T-Mobile allows global players [geddit?] to have a truly mobile life." Not true! The only thing mobile in this ad is the limousine from which Stiffy delivers these immortal lines, which I and everyone else immediately forgot because her performance was so bad. And the couple should take a leaf out of Posh and Becks's book on how to be Mr and Mrs Perfect - colour-coordinated outfits, fine, but never match your lipsticks.