OPINION: Hill is right man to win back trust after Campbell

I have lost count of the number of times I said Campbell should go in order for the Government to show that the era of spin was over.

Now that he has finally been forced out I suppose it was inevitable that Mandelson would try to use Campbell's demise to force his way back in.

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when I read one Sunday paper headline that said 'Blair to launch Ministry of Truth - Mandelson to play key role'.

Tony Blair is unlikely to be considering using Mandelson in anything other than an informal role. The days when he could bully hacks and editors are long gone, as Campbell himself found out to his cost. The rightful place for Mandy is deep in the dustbin of history. Blair knows this only too well, and I would take with a very large dose of salt reports of Mandelson's return, almost certainly briefed by the Prince of Darkness himself. In any event, Gordon Brown is in charge of the election strategy and there is no way he would do the job if Mandelson or even Campbell, as some have suggested, were to be involved.

What about the new king of spin in Downing Street, David Hill? Campbell supported a First Division football team - Burnley, while Hill supports a Premiership one - Aston Villa. I think that's very appropriate because, in my view, Hill is a better spin doctor than Campbell ever was.

Last week I heard the BBC's political editor on Radio Five Live tell listeners that Hill was brilliant at his job and that all the Westminster hacks trust him. In fact, I have not heard anyone inside politics have a bad word to say about Hill. As far as I know, the only time he ever misled a journalist was when he was briefing on the Bernie Ecclestone affair. Hill told the Westminster lobby Ecclestone had only donated a small amount of cash to Labour, but only because that's what he had been told by Mandelson, who didn't want to come clean. Hill was treated shamefully during this early period of the new Labour Government, which is presumably why he left.

Mandelson was keen to see the back of Hill and it is easy to see why.

As the head of the Labour Party communications operation he had to gain the trust of all the leading politicians and not just act as Blair's hatchet man. It was Hill who helped draw up the statement announcing that Brown would not stand against Blair for the party leadership.

The great advantage Hill has over Campbell is that he could easily be spinner in chief for Brown as well as Blair. You could never imagine David Hill calling Brown 'psychologically flawed', as Campbell is reported to have done. Hill is a traditional spin doctor with traditional values and, in my opinion, the best there is. Tony Blair is lucky to have found someone who will actually serve him better than Campbell did. People trust Hill and they didn't trust Campbell.

The reorganisation of the whole media and communications operation, for which Mandelson is trying to claim credit, couldn't come soon enough.

The sorry sight of Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon at the Hutton Inquiry, limply explaining that the Kelly strategy was all done at Number 10 and he had nothing to do with it, shows how Downing Street has taken over everything. Only the Treasury has the power to tell Number 10 to get stuffed.

Campbell will no doubt go off to make a fortune elsewhere but, before he does, he will have to come back to Hutton and explain why he told him that he had 'no input, output, influence' in drawing up the Iraq dossier.

It was actually Campbell who got the spooks to change 'may be able to deploy weapons within 45 minutes' to 'are able'. I'm looking forward to Campbell's explanation.

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