OPINION: Campbell decision comes as no surprise

I'm not surprised that the Prime Minister's press spokesman has

decided to change jobs after the election. The only surprise is that he

didn't do it earlier.

Months before I resigned as Gordon Brown's press secretary, Alastair

Campbell and I had a lengthy chat about how long the media would

continue its obsession with 'spin doctors'. We both thought that the

emphasis by the newspapers and broadcasters on the process of government

rather that its policies would get worse not better and that our jobs

would probably not last long.

Mine lasted just 18 months in government and I left having been pursued

on holiday in the Highlands by hacks wanting to ask me if I had been the

one to shop Mandelson over his pounds 375,000 loan from Geoffrey

Robinson. I had become a bigger story than the economic strategy of my

boss and so I decided to call it a day.

Campbell was not sorry to see the back of me but he resented all the

publicity that came my way - even if most of it wasn't favourable! Ever

since Gordon Brown and his office co-operated with the making of the

award-winning 'fly-on-the-wall' documentaries showing Brown powerful in

both opposition and in government, Campbell wanted to show that it is

actually him who wields the power.

He wasn't happy until the BBC made a documentary about him. He was

supposed to ensure that his boss the Prime Minister looked good in it

but the clip the BBC used of Blair was the one that inspired the

brilliantly accurate portrayal of Campbell in Rory Bremner and


Campbell is obsessed with his own image and is still desperate for as

much publicity as possible. The problem with this is that publicity

about him damages the Government and makes his job almost impossible,

hence his decision to change it.

Apparently, Campbell fancies himself not just as spin doctor but as some

sort of government super PR guru. Let's hope he makes a better fist of

the recent PR efforts designed to save the British tourist industry.

Having initially backed the subsidised farming industry, the Government

suddenly woke up to the fact that tourism is ten times more important to

the economy than livestock farming. Having been told that the

countryside was closed we were suddenly told that really it was open.

The problem is, it isn't.

I'm writing from Sutherland in the north-west Highlands where there have

been no outbreaks of foot-and-mouth. There are signs everywhere telling

you not to walk because of sheep grazing. I can't even get to some lochs

to fish because they're in grazing land. And what does the Scottish

minister for tourism do? He goes to Italy for an Easter break.

Bernard Ingham returns next week.

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