Monday, July 23, 2007

The Blair Years

One of the things I did whilst away was read Alastair Campbell's diaries. I have to say that they were actually quite enjoyable read of contemporary history simply because I had also read a number of other accounts of the same events from multiple sources. To hear Campbell's view, for example, of Robin Cook extra-marital affair was interesting. Especially having read a Robin Cook account, and also all the other accounts.

One thing that did strike me, and has been commented on elsewhere I think, was the number of times Campbell was with Blair and Blair was just wearing his pants, or in some cases was stark bollock naked. I was expecting Bernard Jenkin to do a cameo at one point.

This said some other things shone through quite strongly. Firstly, lots of people thought Clare Short was mental. Frankly, I agree with Prescott who apparently said "that woman is fucking mad". One of the more notable entries for me though was on May 14th, 2000 about the former BBC political editor, Robin Oakley, which said,
Oakley called me, to say he was really angry that he was being described as a Tory in some of the papers and he wanted me to know how angry he was. His anger went way beyond that though. He said he had simply been summoned to a hotel at 10pm [by the BBC] on Thursday and told he was going before his time. He sounded devastated, said he was devastated and felt betrayed and very bitter. I said I had always found him fair and reasonable and I was sorry he had been treated so badly. I asked him if he wanted me to generate people to say he was someone of independence and integrity, which he did.
Notice how Campbell does not mention why Oakley decided to call him to say how angry he was about the way he was being described in the papers? It was the omission that I found interesting. Oh yes, and the fact that Campbell then offers to spin a line about Oakley being "independent" and of "solid integrity". You couldn't make it up irony huh?

There is a common theme throughout the diaries when in power though. The media are bastards who care only about trivial things as far as Campbell is concerned. Yet the trivial stuff that he himself pushes during the first section of the diaries when in opposition kind of negates his argument somewhat.

It's actually quite strange that these diaries chronologically show Campbell doing things that he later claims to despise, and yet, in all his interviews he refuses to acknowledge any of it. Incidentally, unlike some of my fellow bloggers I did not get a free copy so I did line Campbell's pocket, mainly because I can't help but respect how bloody good he was at what he did.

Sure, it's easy to bemoan it all as the debasement of politics, or, if you're obsessed scream "45 minutes" all the time. However, from a purely objective point of view, he was employed to be Machiavelli and Machiavelli he was.


S said...

Well said. I am only about 160 pages into it but am thoroughly enjoying it.

The refusal of some people to buy/read it based on the grounds they don't like him annoys me. If you are not interested then that of course is another matter.

Newmania said...

My brother has met him a few times his kid is at the school.

Old BE said...

Campbell was brilliant at his job there is no doubt about it. Lessons need learning though, because we can't allow governments to get away with such cynical "information management" again. Oh yes and we need the government to be held to account better by Parliament.

CityUnslicker said...

saved me reading his book though, nice review.