Nicholas Jones - Blog and Archive Website

In the frenetic build-up to the release of Alastair Campbell’s diaries I kept wondering whether there might be any way of reconciling Gordon Brown’s desperate struggle to restore trust in the Labour government with a spin doctor’s confident assertion that the publication of his book would be "good for Labour and good for politics".

The Blair Years confirmed that even the spinmeister himself could not hide the truth: there, on page after page, was ample proof of the damage which Campbell had inflicted on the political process through an era of squalid, sleazy spin.

What also emerged through his pre-launch bluster and countless boastful entries about the Blairite chorus of approval for the "brilliant" job he was doing in Downing Street, was that Campbell remained in denial.


Alastair Campbell’s pre-launch publicity blitz for The Blair Years was a text book example of the sleazy spin which so damaged the Blair government. Self-serving leaks to the newspapers whetted the appetite of reporters; broadcasters tripped over themselves in their rush to gain exclusive interviews; and barely any questions were asked about the ethics of how it was that a public servant could earn £1million by selling secrets gathered around the cabinet table.

But once the first, much-hyped extracts from his diaries appeared on his website even the spinmeister himself could not hide the truth: there, between the lines, was evidence of the way Campbell had driven a coach and horses through the code of conduct for politically-appointed temporary civil servants.

No wonder Gordon Brown promised in his statement on restoring trust to the political process (3.7.2007) that he would legislate to make sure that never again would a political appointee like Campbell be allowed to hold the power to give instructions to civil servants and get involved in the preparation and publication of intelligence information.

While Tony Blair will be always associated with the word "spin", just as John Major is remembered for "sleaze", the outgoing Prime Minister did, to his credit, ensure that his government transformed the way Whitehall responds to the ever-increasing demands of the twenty-four news media.

Indeed Blair, the consummate communicator, was ideal for the task and a spin doctor’s dream. Once the line had been agreed, he rarely if ever deviated from the message which he intended to deliver. And whatever the pressure, he rarely if ever put a foot wrong in front of camera.

There is no gallery of gaffes in the video and audio archives of television and radio stations. The worst the broadcasters could find for last week’s tributes was the sight and sound of an unnerved Prime Minister being interrupted by a slow handclap from the usually docile massed ranks of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes.

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