Alastair campbell

Labour has forgotten the people the party is meant to serve

The great Robert Harris has defended the pollsters who got the recent elections so wrong by quoting Cicero on the electorate’s fickleness. Cicero certainly acknowledged the problem when he was defending one Gnaeus Plancius in 54 bc, but made a rather different point. Plancius had been accused of rigging his election to the position of aedile (a sort of joint mayor of Rome) by his rival for the post, Laterensis. But Cicero had a problem: Laterensis was a personal friend. Since Cicero could not therefore lay into him, he began by arguing that electoral rejection could happen to anyone in Rome: ‘For in elections the people do not always demonstrate

Come on you blues. Or, er, reds

Here’s an election-winning idea for Dave: forget about Aston Villa (or West Ham) and become a full-on Bournemouth fan. They were on the telly the other night, all but sealing promotion to the Premier League, and played a bit like Brazil: fluent high-speed passing, wave after wave of attacks. They play in a very smart red-and-black strip that’s not easily confused with anyone else unless AC Milan come calling. A few years back they were nearly out of the Football League: now they’ll be mixing it with Manchester United and Arsenal. And I’ll bet they won’t go back down. They have their own reclusive Russian petrochemical billionaire, a cove named

Alastair Campbell finds old habits die hard

Post Blair’s government, Alastair Campbell has billed himself as a pious, ethical commentator on the state of the media and politics. If there’s one thing he can’t stand, it’s the negative campaigning from the Tories, and especially from his old foe Lynton Crosby: ‘Meanwhile lest anyone dare to say the Tories are only fighting a negative campaign against Labour, perish the thought… I have seen some dire campaigns in my time. Crosby’s Michael Howard 2005 vintage springs to mind. But this one is taking all the awards for the direst. They are not so much making it up as they go along as going along not sure what they just made

Did anyone proofread the Labour manifesto?

‘Do you mind not splitting your infinitives then. Dear me’, said Alastair Campbell to a Tory candidate on Twitter last night. After chastising Beth Prescott, who is standing against Yvette Cooper in Normanton, Campbell was given an earful: .@campbellclaret I’m a young, Northern, former apprentice trying to make a positive difference&best you can do is patronise me?@LouiseMensch — Beth Prescott (@Beth4Pontefract) April 13, 2015 Ouch. While we are on the topic of perfect grammar, shall we have a look at Labour’s manifesto? The one that Campbell has been spinning all day. ‘We are a great country’ says the foreword. Britain is a great country, yes. We are the people of

I’ve been sacked more times than I can exactly remember. It teaches you nothing

The Oldie magazine — of which, until otherwise advised, I appear to be the editor — runs an occasional article about someone’s experience of being sacked. When I was young, this used to carry something of a stigma: other people found it hard to believe that you could be sacked without having somehow deserved it. But since then so many admirable people have lost their jobs for no good reason that nobody thinks any the worse of them for it. And now we are told by Anna Wintour, the editor of American Vogue and queen of the fashion world for 27 years, that to be sacked is actually a good

Tories detect Alastair Campbell’s hand in latest education attacks on PM

Angry Conservative Party officials have hit back at attacks from the left on the education of the Prime Minister’s children. On Monday the PM’s spokesman claimed: ‘Like tens of thousands of other parents, the prime minister and Mrs Cameron expect to hear which secondary schools have offered a place to their daughter Nancy. If she gets more than one offer they will make a decision in due course.’ It is thought Nancy Cameron will attend a central London comprehensive, which would make Cameron the first Tory PM to send his child to a state comp. This has not stopped education campaigners weighing in. Fiona Millar, who lest we forget is Alastair Campbell’s partner,

Alastair Campbell threatens a political comeback

It’s probably not the news everyone wanted to hear, but Mr S feels a duty to let readers know that Alastair Campbell is considering a return to politics. Furthermore, this could involve the former Labour spinner standing as an MP. Speaking to India Knight for the April issue of Red magazine, he comments that a friend recently suggested he join parliament. His reply was: ‘I’ll regret not doing it, but I know I’ll regret it if I do it as well… The size of the regrets will be big either way.’ Campbell goes on to discuss the inner struggle that took hold of him when a woman asked him how he has managed to walk away

Why Putin is even less of a human than Stalin was

LBC likes to tell us it’s ‘Leading Britain’s Conversation’, though in the case of weekday pre-lunch presenter James O’Brien you’ll have to sit through a series of bombastic monologues from the host before any punters get a word in edgeways. O’Brien knows everything, and he doesn’t mind telling you. Still, I understand that running a talk show is no job for timid introverts who might burst into tears if callers start giving them a hard time. The trick is pretending to listen sympathetically while being ready to drop the guillotine without compunction (after all, these people aren’t your friends, they’re just statistics for the business plan). Anyway, after last Thursday’s

Mandelson and Campbell reportedly tapped up Alan Johnson to replace Miliband

Is Ed Miliband ready to be Prime Minister? His personal poll ratings suggest not and many in his party remain sceptical. But Labour remains toe-to-toe with the Conservatives in the polls, making a Miliband premiership a real possibility after 7 May. The FT’s George Parker and Jim Pickard have interviewed the Labour leader (£) today to find out why Miliband is still confident he can lead the country, despite the negativity surrounding his leadership. One of the fascinating nuggets in the piece is the claim that two of the most influential figures in New Labour plotted to remove him as leader: ‘Miliband’s Labour critics do not share his confidence. So much so

How Alex Brooker made political interviews interesting again

The other night on Channel 4, I watched the best political interview I’ve seen all year. It was with Nick Clegg, and conducted by a guy called Alex Brooker. And it gave me, if only for a few moments, a glimpse of a better world. You’ll know who Nick Clegg is. Brooker, though, might have passed under your radar: he was only just on mine. He’s one of three hosts on a comedy show called The Last Leg, which launched during the Paralympics of 2012. Disability features heavily in the premise of the show, so I probably ought to mention that he has a prosthetic leg and something up with

Cameron and Osborne supping with Murdoch – again

It was PR guru Matthew Freud’s 50th birthday on Saturday: he and his wife, Elisabeth Murdoch, hosted a fairly lavish party. But would Westminster’s finest attend? Guests were struck to see the Prime Minister and the Chancellor both in attendance, evidently quite happy to rejoin the social set that they have both kept clear of in recent years. Tony and Cherie Blair were also tripping the light fantastic. It was, after all, a Noah’s Ark theme and they came in twos: PM and Osborne, Blairs, Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss. Perhaps the Chancellor is so confident that his pre-Budget report will be a festival of good news that he feels he

Do we really need to turn the mentally ill into victims?

Public wrath has finally moved from the Daily Mail, and to the Sun over its splash yesterday on the mentally ill. It’s deemed especially offensive because this is apparently Mental Health Awareness Week. For some time now mental illness has been becoming the new victimhood du jour, and among the reasons is that mental illness is so spectral and ambiguous that lots of people can join in (especially journalists). Laurie Penny wrote that it was unfair to use stereotypes about mad axe man because: ‘Like a lot of people, I sometimes get depressed and anxious. On precisely none of these occasions have I flown into a murderous rage and stabbed

Alastair Campbell, moral arbiter? Pull the other one.

Has there been a more emetic sight than Alastair Campbell touring the radio and TV studios lecturing the world on moral probity? I can’t think of one, offhand. The BBC, an institution he once tried to destroy, if you recall, is more than happy to shove him on air whensoever he feels like it. I assume that this is because, like Campbell, they are intent on turning the Daily Mail-Miliband farrago into a post-Leveson issue about the nature of journalism. As some of us said at the time of Leveson, the metro-liberal left does not really give a toss about intrusion into the lives of drug-addled slebs. It wishes instead

Rod Liddle: Under New Labour, it really was the loony left

There is a little vignette in the first volume of Alastair Campbell’s diaries that makes it abundantly clear that, at the time, we were being governed by people who were mentally ill. It is yet another furious, bitter, gut-churning row involving Campbell, Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson and concludes with Mandelson stamping his little feet and screaming: ‘I am sick of being rubbished and undermined! I hate it! And I want out.’ The cause of this dispute was not whether or not Labour should nationalise the top 200 companies and secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry. Don’t be silly. It was

Damian McBride shatters the Labour peace

If you want to know just how much anger Damian McBride’s book has created in the Labour party—and particularly its Blairite wing, just watch Alastair Campbell’s interview with Andrew Neil on The Sunday Politics. Campbell doesn’t scream or shout but the anger in his voice as he discusses McBride’s antics is palpable. He did not sound like a man inclined to forgive and forget. This whole row is, obviously, a massive conference distraction. Those close to Ed Miliband had hoped that this year, the Labour leader would get a free run at conference now that his brother has quite politics. But as one of his colleagues said to me late

Max Hastings, Mind-Reader

Max Hastings is one of the foremost military historians in the English-speaking world. His multi-volume history of the Second World War is magnificent. Until recently, however, I had not known that he counted soothsaying among his many accomplishments. How else, however, to explain his article in today’s Daily Mail in which the old boy outs himself as a first-class mind-reader. Hastings is responding to a presentation Alastair Campbell gave to an audience of PR types in Australia in which Mr Blair’s communications wizard, perhaps rather too glibly, noted that Winston Churchill frequently and deliberately peddled untruths during the Second World War. And yet his reputation remains higher than that of poor old

Iraq and the BBC revisited

Just finished reading a book by Kevin Marsh, the editor of the Today programme at the time of the whole Gilligan-Campbell-Kelly business which saw the director general of the BBC kicked out of the corporation. It hasn’t aroused very much interest, largely because it contains no new information which would either exonerate the programme or the government. And because stylistically it is not an untrammelled pleasure. I think Stephen Robinson, in the Sunday Times, got it about right: “It takes a particular type of journalistic incompetence to cede the moral high ground on the Iraq war to Alastair Campbell and Tony Blair, but this book…….confirms that the BBC and Marsh

Campbell vs Iannucci, round two

Professional funny chap Armando Iannucci is laughing it off his recent internet showdown with Alistair Campbell. Sky lobbyist extraordinaire Lucy Aitken has been doing wonders to repair the reputation of Murdoch spinners. Last night, she treated an assembled crowd of hacks and flacks to a boozy preview of Iannucci’s ‘Veep’ — the American ‘Thick of It’ spin off — in Parliament last night. In conversation with press pack doyen Tim Shipman of the Mail, Iannucci, the brains behind Steve Coogan, settled the score with Campbell to a very safe crowd: ‘I woke up on Saturday morning, had a bit fun with two tweets and he is still going. It’s two

Palace intrigue

Plunging into the second volume of Alastair Campbell’s diaries is like opening a Samuel Richardson novel. Plunging into the second volume of Alastair Campbell’s diaries is like opening a Samuel Richardson novel. The tone is breathless and excitable and the dramatic world of backstabbing, tittle-tattle and palace intrigue is instantly captivating. Historians will scour the book for valuable new information. Practitioners of media management will regard it as a classic. Downing Street rivalries dominate from the start. The impression that ‘the TB-GB riftology’ developed after 1997 is inaccurate. War had been raging ever since Blair won the leadership in 1994 and Brown’s sabotage unit, led by Charlie Whelan and Ed

How do you snare a spin doctor?

So, who’s next after Andy Coulson? This question is oddly important, and will certainly influence the direction of his government. It shouldn’t, but you have to understand the way the Cameron operation works – and of how life looked before George Osborne persuaded Coulson to come on board (hoodie hugging, husky-riding, etc). Coulson was an advocate of fundamental conservative values (crime, tax cuts, Europe) and emphasised their mass appeal. Tim Montgomerie has a list of possibles for this job. But how to persuade them? Whoever does it can kiss goodbye to their life (and family) for the duration. No.10 is a pressure oven, and there’s a horribly large chance that