Alastair campbell

Talking Balls | 31 May 2010

This brightened the day. Alastair Campbell, courtesy of his complete diaries, on Ed Balls: “Ed Balls spoke drivel, a never-ending collection of words that just ran into each other and became devoid of meaning.”

Was last night’s Question Time a preview of how the coalition will deal with the media?

All kinds of hoohah about last night’s Question Time, for which Downing St refused to put up a panellist because of Alastair Campbell’s involvement.  If he was replaced with a shadow minister, they said, they would happily get involved.  But, as the excutive editor of Question Time explains here, the Beeb wasn’t prepared to go along with that.  So Campbell got to lord it up in front of the cameras. For the reasons outlined by Guido and Iain Dale, it was probably a slight mis-step by the coalition – but not one, in itself, that will have any important rammifications for them or the public.  For while it’s not the

The Tories should shine a light on Labour’s leadership machinations

One striking aspect to this evening’s brouhaha is how senior Labour figures are going out of their way not to endorse anyone as Gordon Brown’s successor.  Brown himself has said that he won’t back an “individual candidate,” and Peter Mandelson and Alastair Campbell have made similar noises in television interviews. There are, I imagine, two main reasons for this.  First, it’s all too soon: Labour won’t want to engage in full internecine combat while there’s still the chance of a deal with the Lib Dems.  And, second, they will want to create the impression that – contrary to Gordon Brown’s ascension to power in 2007 – the next Labour leader

Where Did Labour’s Funniest Line Originate?

I must say I had a chuckle at Alastair Campbell’s tweet during the leaders’ debate: “Clegg done well on style, Cameron clear winner on shallowness, GB winner on substance”.  I had another chuckle when Alan Johnson used the line in the post-debate analysis and now I see David Miliband congratulating Alan Johnson for using it and  Miliband’s comments being recirculated by eager Labourites. So who stole it from whom? For we socialists all property is theft and everything should be owned in common so I guess it doesn’t really matter. But it is amusing to see how pleased everyone is with this one-liner.

All quiet on the Chilcot front

I just took a quick stroll around the block from Old Queen St, to check out the situation on the ground outside the Chilcot Inquiry.  The most striking thing is how few protestors there are – about ten at most, I’d say, and a fraction of the number that marched out against Blair a few weeks ago.  Brown doesn’t even make one placard’s list of – and I quote – “Lying R. Soles,” which includes Blair, Campbell, Straw and Goldsmith. It’s all rather suggestive of how Brown has managed, over the years, to separate himself from those who made the political and moral case for war.  But there lies the

Not a day to be a Pratt

The unfortunately named Christine Pratt, her husband and the National Bullying Helpline have been completely demolished by one of the most well co-ordinated spin operations I can recall. The charity’s accounts bear no examination. Two Patrons, Cary Cooper and Mary O’Connor, have resigned – disgusted that Pratt broke the charity’s commitment to confidentiality, as indeed was Ann Widdecombe. The Charities Commission have been called in. She’s flip-flopped on her original claims at least twice: initially suggesting that Gordon Brown was a bully, then insisting he wasn’t and then recalling that he possibly might have been. Plainly, her memory of who calls her and what they say is as leaky as

The best publicity Brown is ever likely to get

Brown is very lucky to have a friend in Piers Morgan. He did him a great service in the ITV interview tonight – and while it would have made CoffeeHousers nauseous (if they watched it), it will be the best television the PM will get this year and probably ever. Mark my words: the Labour Party will not produce anything that shows Brown in such a sympathetic light. It was powerful, I’d say, because it was not party political propaganda: Morgan genuinely likes Brown and did his utmost to project the human side of him. Those hours of coaching from Alastair Campbell paid off. He kept smiling in a credible

Beyond doubt

For a moment, Andrew Marr had Alastair Campbell by the short and curlies. Marr attacked (that verb is not an exaggeration) Campbell over his clarification to the Chilcot Inquiry, the phrase ‘beyond doubt’ and the possibility that Blair knowingly misled parliament over the strength of WMD intelligence.   Marr was at his incisive and dramatic best. It was the first time I’ve seen Campbell under pressure and he wobbled, his lower lip did so markedly. Perhaps I do him a disservice, but I didn’t buy Campbell’s blubbing act; it was just theatre. His defence of Blair and himself rested on the tried and tested refrain that Tony’s a pretty straight

Stop these excuses: someone dig up Robin Cook

So there we have it, straight from the horse’s mouth, and to round off a sentence of tired clichés all that needs to be said is that Clare Short was “conned”. Everyone was in fact: “We were in a bit of a lunatic asylum… I noticed Tony Blair in his evidence to you kept saying, ‘I had to decide, I had to decide.’ And indeed that’s how he behaved. But that is not meant to be our system of government.” The sofa was barred to all except Bush and the Cabinet exercised collective ignorance. Even Brown was left to brood over cups of coffee and macaroons with Clare Short. Short’s

Labour have Osborne in their sights (and on their fridges)

It’s only a small thing, but does anyone else find this detail from today’s Times interview with Alastair Campbell a little, erm, peculiar: “On the [Campbell] fridge is a Christmas card from David Miliband, a clipped photo of George Osborne in the Bullingdon Club shooting pheasant, a GCSE revision schedule. It is the type of handsome but unostentatious London professionals’ house that the Blairs once owned in Islington.” I mean, it’s no secret that the Labour hierarchy loathes the shadow Chancellor – but putting what I assume is this photo on your fridge?  Armchair psychologists, the comments section is yours…

Poor communication is damaging the Afghan mission

He may be a chateau-bottled shyster, but there is no better communicator of policy than Alastair Campbell. He has penned an article in the FT arguing that the lesson that should have been learned from the Iraq war was how to communicate strategic ideas and objectives. The lack of clarity that came to define Iraq now afflicts Afghanistan: ‘It was hard to discern that approach in the run-up to the Afghan surge being announced, or after it. The surge should have been followed by co-ordinated communications across the alliance. That job is not being done with the vigour and consistency that it should, and the systems of co-ordination have weakened

The Brown brand

How do politicians achieve that “unspun” look?  Why, by emulating the spin of a soft drinks company, of course.  This from Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian: ‘[The Labour campaign team have] taken a look at the branding of Innocent smoothies, hoping the authentic, unspun look might fit their own ‘unairbrushable’ product, G Brown. They were heartened by the reaction to the retouched Cameron poster, which suggests people are sick of the slick trickery associated with the age of Blair.’ In which case, here’s the Innocent website so you can get an insight into the Brown brand (although I doubt he’ll provide two of your five-a-day).  If Labour persist down this

Geoff Hoon, silent assassin

And so it came to pass that nothing came to pass. Geoff Hoon gave evidence to the Chilcot Inquiry on the same day as a convention of anaesthetists visited the QE Conference Centre. Perhaps their presence contributed to the somnolent proceedings. Beneath the apparent narcolepsy, Hoon made two important points. First, he was convinced that the intelligence contained in the two dossiers established the threat of WMD “beyond doubt”, which will assist Blair when he gives evidence, especially after Alastair Campbell’s recent ‘clarification’. However, Hoon claims that the 45-minute claim was the only piece of evidence that he had not seen prior to publication, adding that he was on ministerial

Just like old times

As Paul Waugh notes, it was just like old times. Alastair Campbell told us all to grow up and trust in Tony. Naturally, controversy about the dossier was the product of over imaginative hacks, and Campbell asserted that the caveats of experts are nothing compared to a PM’s need to take major decisions. It was a sensational spin operation. Inspired by Uriah Heep, Campbell cast himself as the humblest of functionaries amid grand events. In doing so he was unremittingly arrogant, almost to the point of delusion. Most extraordinary was his unabashed pride for his, Tony’s and Britain’s role in Iraq: “On the big picture on the leadership that the British government showed in

More trouble lies in wait for the government

Labour lost the first week of the long election campaign. The Hoon and Hewitt plot and the late and tepid endorsements of Brown from key members of the Cabinet have highlighted the divisions within the Labour party. Hoon and Hewitt were right that stories about these decisions will not go away. They will run and run right up to polling day. The weekend papers will also not be good for Labour. To compound Labour’s woes, it looks like the big political story of early next week will be Alastair Campbell’s testimony to the Iraq inquiry, which threatens to dredge up memories of spin and Iraq. It should be remembered, though,

The choice facing the Tories

If you’d like a step-by-step preview of Labour’s next election campaign, then do read Alastair Campbell’s latest blog post.  All of Brown’s attacks from PMQs are in there, and then some: “tax cuts for the rich”; a lack of “policy heavy lifting” on Cameron’s part; the Tories “haven’t really changed”, etc. etc.  The spinmeister has been in closer contact with Downing Street recently, and it shows.  It’s all gone a bit bar-brawling. The Tories now face a choice between, broadly speaking, three different responses: i) Ignore Campbell.  Even though James was right to highlight the differences between now and the Crewe & Nantwich byelection – which I wrongly skipped over

Iraq Inquiry Digest

The Chilcot Inquiry is already proving a hundred times more interesting than anyone expected. My only worry is that people already view 2003 as ancient history. There is a tendency to think we already know what we only suspected. I was an agnostic on the intervention. I hoped in would work, but worried that it would be a disaster. I still think it is too early to tell whether it was.  What is certainly the case is that most British journalists failed to hold the government to account at the time. Even at the height of excitement about the Hutton Inquiry, much was missed by those being paid to cover

Raging against the dying of the light

George Osborne’s speech on Monday calling for huge cash bonuses not to be paid this year drew an angry response from those hoping to receive huge cash bonuses – and various City and business pressure groups. A few years ago I would have felt deeply uncomfortable with what Obsorne proposed, but because nearly every bank has drawn heavily on state support over the last year, I think politicians do have a right – even a responsibility – to offer firm guidance to the banks. The FT led the charge against Osborne with both a critical news story, gleefully dissected by Iain Martin, and a harsh leader. Today, the paper follows

A headache for Cameron and Coulson

So David Cameron has said that Andy Coulson’s job isn’t endangered by the News of the World wire-tapping allegations in this morning’s Guardian, and you can see where the Tory leader is coming from.  After all, there are very few – if any – new revelations about Coulson in the Guardian piece.  We already knew that the Tory communications chief resigned the editorship of the NotW after a phone-hacking scandal involving the royal editor Clive Goodman.  And we already knew that he claimed no knowledge of the hacking but, as editor, he took responsibility for it.  No evidence has yet emerged that Coulson was more implicated than he’s letting on.