Ms Simmons' tales came hard on the heels of another set of revelations from someone in a similar line of business. An undercover reporter from the News of the World loosened the tongue of Carole Caplin, Cherie Blair's "lifestyle guru", and also a friend of Tony's. According to Ms Caplin, Mr Blair drinks too much, is overweight and has bought a "horrible" house. Readers may recall a fly-on-the-wall documentary about Ms Caplin two-and-a-half years ago, in which the Prime Minister was apparently heard ringing her flat at midnight, and leaving a message which began: "Hi, it's Tony calling."
The News of the World affected to be horrified by Carole Caplin's indiscretions, remembering how she had persuaded Cherie Blair to seek the help of Peter Foster, a convicted conman, in the purchase of two flats in Bristol, and calling her "a shameless opportunist". Similar abuse was heaped on Ms Simmons by the Sun's rivals. According to the Daily Mail, Princes William and Harry were "sickened and disgusted" by the allegation of a blood test. William was said to have asked why his late mother could not be left alone.
Many fair-minded people will be inclined to agree with him. Ms Simmons is fortunate that Princess Diana is dead, as is John F Kennedy Jnr. No one is in a position to quarrel with what the Princess is supposed to have said to her, either in person or during their long telephone calls. We only have Ms Simmons's word to balance against our own credulity. She is not a great one for footnotes or corroborative evidence. The wary may also wonder why she has waited eight years to produce her tome. Perhaps "energy healing" is not the business that it was.
Yet, hard though it is to say it, Prince William's outrage seems to me misplaced. The fault was his mother's in befriending Simone Simmons in the first place. The Princess had become obsessed with the idea that her apartments at Kensington Place were filled with (in Ms Simmon's own phrase) "residual bad energy from her marriage", and the psychic was engaged for the job of exorcism. According to Mr Simmons - and this is confirmed by Diana's former butler, Paul Burrell, an almost equally unsuitable confidant - the energy healer and the Princess spent countless hours gassing together.
The moral of this tale is that it is unwise to open one's heart to strangers with dubious or no qualifications who pretend to hold the key to life and happiness. It can equally well be applied to the Blairs in respect of Carole Caplin. They have taken the former topless model on holiday with them on at least two occasions, entertained her at Chequers, and constantly sought her guidance about their mental and physical health. She is still a regular visitor to Number 10. And yet this trusted friend and confidant is happy to offer indiscretions to a News of the World undercover reporter posing as a wealthy prospective client. At least Simone Simmons waited eight years.
Carole Caplin will one day spill the beans on the Blairs in a spectacular way. If they had the courage to get rid of her now - I do not know that they have any desire to do so - that day would probably be quite soon. Whenever it comes, the tabloids will vie with one another to publish her "revelations". In which case, it will be as futile to blame whichever newspaper carries them as it would be now to criticise the Sun for running extracts from Ms Simmons's book. Blame those who put their trust in lifestyle gurus.
THE DREADFUL CASE of Brian Blackwell, who murdered his parents, has introduced the term "narcissistic personality disorder" into common parlance. I am suspicious of the modern propensity for inventing psychiatric disorders to explain, and maybe even partly to justify, acts of human wickedness. The media are too ready to accept these terms uncritically.
Nonetheless, I am wondering whether Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair's former director of communications, may not be a partial sufferer. One symptom of the disorder is evidently a grandiose sense of self-importance. Mr Campbell is the British and Irish Lions' spin doctor during their tour of New Zealand. Last Friday he devoted his entire Times sports column to the aftermath of the Lions' "woeful" performance in their first international.
Reading the piece, one might be forgiven for thinking that Mr Campbell was the pivotal person around whom the tour revolved, rather than a mere spokesman taken on for a few weeks. He describes how he heroically dealt with the aftermath of the injury to the Lion's captain, Brian O'Driscoll, as a result of a tackle - dramatically calling a press conference at midnight, discussing the tackle with O'Driscoll, dealing with the crisis at 3am in the morning, having breakfast with O'Driscoll, inviting him to another press conference, and so forth.
Perhaps the Lions would do better if they asked Alastair Campbell to play for them.
Not such a silly sum for an ailing company
Trinity Mirror has rejected a bid of between £700m and £800m from a little-known businessman called Marcus Evans. Most pundits - and evidently Trinity Mirror itself - have dismissed the bid as being much too low. It has pointed out that the Telegraph Group was sold last year for £665m, and suggested that Trinity Mirror is much more profitable.
But is it? Trinity Mirror earned £66.4m in profits last year. According to the confidential investment memorandum produced by Lazard in January 2004, the Telegraph Group was predicted to make a profit of £47.9m in 2004. In 2001, when advertising revenues were buoyant, the company made a profit of £69.7m.
Moreover, the Telegraph Group was sold before costs were taken out. The Barclay brothers are now doing that. By contrast, Trinity Mirror has already been cut to the bone - £23m of cost cutting was achieved last year - and there probably isn't much more to come.
Perhaps the most important point is that the circulation of Trinity Mirror's still-lucrative flagship title, the Daily Mirror, has been declining faster than that of the Daily Telegraph, and is now below 1.8 million copies a day. Where is the person who knows how to reverse this trend?
All in all, Mr Evan's bid does not strike me as being as ludicrously low as is being suggested. Trinity Mirror may be worth more, but not that much more.Reuse content