OPINION: A footnote for Alastair Campbell’s diaries

If you are wondering why there is such media frenzy over the Alastair Campbell diaries then you need to look no further than the spin master himself.

It is a well-known fact that political books usu­ally don’t sell and it is newspaper serialisations that make all the cash. I was offered £250,000 for my ‘kiss and tell’ on new Labour, so Campbell must have been looking at around a million for his.

But his problem has been that in order to avoid upsetting his old boss, the next Prime Minister and a whole host of civil servants, he has had to cut out all the best bits.

We read in the papers that he ‘forwent hundreds of thousands to protect himself from the accusation of sensationalism’ but could it be that when Campbell actually tried to flog it around the newspapers no one was prepared to cough up much cash?

I would argue that Campbell is currently trying to defend the indefensible in any case. 

When people ask me why I didn’t take the money and write a book, I give a simple answer: if when attending a meeting with the Prime Minister and Chancellor I had worn a badge saying, ‘I will be taking a note of everything said and publish it at a later date,’ then I would quite rightly have been thrown out. It looks as though Campbell disagrees with me.

But worse, we are seeing pre-launch spin – the news stories are probably being generated by Campbell himself – for a product that is unlikely to tell us much about going to war with Iraq, Blair’s most controversial decision of his career.

We are also unlikely to learn anything about the rows with ­Gordon Brown or the real language the outgoing PM used.

I actually suspect that Campbell may now be regretting his decision to write his diaries at all. Although the big advance from Random House may help him get over the kicking he is going to receive from the non-Murdoch media when they are finally published.

I’m looking forward to reading about the time Alastair threatened to ‘knock my fucking head off’ because my old pal Paul Routledge dared to write that Tony Blair had lied to Gordon Brown.

But Campbell’s former boss’ wife seems a little bit more sensitive than me.

In hearing that some of the Blair’s children were quoted in the unexpurgated version, Cherie is believed to have said: ‘If he had wanted to quote children, why not quote his own?’

Mr Campbell no doubt sees his own family as private. Yes, and so were virtually all the conversations that will make up his diary.
charlie.whelan@haymarket.com

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