EDITORIAL: Campbell has own agenda for inquiry

When Alastair Campbell appeared before the Foreign Affairs Committee last month, he was grilled for over two hours. On his way out, he was reported to have told an ITN reporter that the network should have the three soundbites they needed for the evening news. Back in the studio, the ITN duty producer had indeed picked the exact three quotes Campbell had intended him to.

At the Hutton Inquiry this week, the bluster and aggression journalists have come to recognise as Campbell's trademark style was notably absent.

But he exhibited the same finely-tuned sense of what was needed to satisfy a particular audience.

Speaking in a quiet voice and peppering his comments with M'luds, he appeared courteous and sincere. And he still managed to ensure that the quotes most widely used in the next day's papers were of his own construction.

After four hours on the stand, the most memorable comments he offered were 'I had no input, output, influence upon it whatever at any stage in the process,' and 'I said the drier the better... cut the rhetoric'.

Campbell is sticking to the strategy noted here two months ago (PRWeek, 4 July) - to isolate the small, beatable 45-minute point within the mass of claims that the Government oversold the case for going to war - and then destroy it to the exclusion of all else. Despite the wide-ranging nature of the inquiry, that strategy is working.

As Campbell has indicated he is soon to leave Number 10, talk of whether he will survive is unnecessary. But his final project in office is to clear his name, and he is going the right way about it.

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