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Mick Temple's Blog

CAMPBELL IN THE SOUP

19-07-2007

Here’s a shock confession. Staffordshire University politics professor Mick Temple won’t be buying the diaries that lift the lid on Tony Blair's ten years in power. Not yet anyway. Here's why.

I have made a resolution. I’m not going to buy Alastair Campbell’s diaries. In a few months time, copies will be trickling (if not flooding) into the nation’s charity shops and I might pick one up then.

‘Why?’ I hear you ask (I have extraordinarily sensitive hearing) - surely a committed politics junkie like Mick Temple wants to read the innermost secrets of the Blair years, straight from the mouth of the ‘real deputy prime minister’?

Well, yes, I do want to know Campbell’s take on events, but I can’t stand the thought of Campbell receiving a penny of my money for his pension fund.

The extracts dramatised on BBC television last week were undeniably revealing - but not about the reality of politics at the centre. They revealed the essential vacuity at the centre of government.

Mandy and Campbell exchanging punches, Tony having to step in and break it up - must have been about something important. Up to a point, Lord Copper.

As with most of the diary extracts we saw, it was about presentation, style rather than substance: should Blair wear cords or a suit to make a speech?

I know that such issues matter in the age of media politics, especially in opposition, but packaging the leader and managing the media became the most important activities during Blair’s time in office.

So much potential, wasted, and Campbell (along with other culprits like Philip Gould) has to take a lot of the blame for Blair’s failure to leave a positive legacy.

Why should we trust anything Alastair Campbell says?

He ‘misled’ us on so many occasions, not least in the run-up to the Iraq War.

From the three hour-long programmes the BBC devoted to the diaries - and to a man whose campaign led to the loss of their director-general and chairman, and the suicide of a government scientist - the overwhelming feeling I came away with was despair. Politics doesn’t have to be like this.

Campbell’s account of events failed to convince - he reminded me of Jonathan Aitken strapping on ‘the simple sword of truth and the trusty shield of British fair play’. I don’t believe Campbell shed tears at David Kelly’s death - or if he did, I suspect they were tears for himself. From his own account, Campbell appears capable of bursting into tears at the drop of a sound-bite.

He was (is) a deeply flawed man who got lucky when he got the Blair gig - the job had been offered to others and been refused. Campbell’s impact on British politics and journalism has been entirely negative. I’m glad he’s gone, but his stinking legacy lingers on. Politics has never been so low in the eyes of the British public.

Good riddance, Alastair Campbell - and from now on I intend to take your email advice to BBC Newsnight - that is, to ‘fuck off and cover something important you twats.’

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