OPINION: Will anyone ever clamp down on Campbell?

Some have expressed surprise that I have remained silent on the re-emergence of Alastair Campbell as Tony Blair's spokesman. He certainly seems to have ended last year's retreat from public life (after becoming the Government story and therefore counter-productive) to concentrate on strategy . In fact, it was never a retreat; merely a tactical withdrawal.

Some have expressed surprise that I have remained silent on the re-emergence of Alastair Campbell as Tony Blair's spokesman. He certainly seems to have ended last year's retreat from public life (after becoming the Government story and therefore counter-productive) to concentrate on strategy . In fact, it was never a retreat; merely a tactical withdrawal.

And it was a pound to a penny that, if Tony Blair were still Prime Minister, he would rise again as the election approached - with the usual damaging results.

He has not covered himself in glory by his handling of Peter Mandelson's second resignation or, as John Prescott and David Blunkett acidly observed last weekend, in asserting that the Prime Minister had pronounced the end of 'bog-standard comprehensive schools'.

But readers know my view of Mr Campbell: he's a dangerous, hyperactive obsessive who has mislaid the judgement he was born with. The Tories seem to think I'm barking when I tell them to keep him in Number 10 since he is grievously accident-prone. So what my critics really want to know is why the Ingham dog has not (until now) barked since Mr Campbell is back in the land of the mis-speaking.

The answer is that I didn't (until now) see much point. The senior civil service made a cardinal error when it allowed Mr Campbell a dual contract which uniquely gave him temporary civil servant status (so that he could boss other civil servants around) and the opportunity to behave as a Labour Party politician when it served his purpose. Of course, Cabinet Secretary Sir Richard Wilson publicly drew the line at Mr Campbell throwing 'bricks and bottles' at the Tories.

But, so what? Mr Campbell, armed with his dual contract, was always going to throw at the Opposition as much as he thought he could get away with.

And since an election is in the offing he is going to chuck as much as he can - such as calling Tory economic policy 'an insult to Mickey Mouse' - without having to leave Number 10 before the election is called.

Frankly, I can't blame Mr Campbell for trying, even if he does it cack-handedly. I blame the mandarins for permitting it, the Tories for not raising sustained hell over this parliament about the taxpayer having to fund such a clear party vehicle as Mr Campbell, and Lord Neill and his absurd Standards Commission for doing nowt about it. If Sam Younger, Electoral Commission chairman, now sits on his hands, I think we can safely assume that Britain is constitutionally really going to the dogs.

Mr Younger told The Daily Telegraph last Saturday that his Commission was to consider whether Mr Campbell should go on the Labour Party payroll sooner than the calling of an election. So what's keeping them? Timidity? Procrastination is the thief of reputations - their reputations





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