On last night’s edition of Newsnight, a bullish, puffy Alastair Campbell trampled over an understandably muzzled Jeremy Paxman.
Campbell’s chin was out; he was vindicated, invincible, self-righteous. A satisfied man. He wore the Hutton report like Athena's goatskin breastplate, and happily put Paxman to the sword.
There was nowhere for Jeremy to go with his questions. He asked one nasty one (about whether it was Campbell who leaked the Hutton report to Kavanagh at the Sun) and when Campbell swatted it down Paxman looked almost ashamed to have asked it.
During the interview, Alastair Campbell twice used a telling phrase:
"When I was in Government…"
When you were in Government…? When exactly was that, Mr Campbell? Remind us which constituency you were elected to represent?
There is an amazing blurring in Campbell’s head of the division between elected Government and special advisors. Alastair Campbell was the director of communications for the Prime Minister. He hadn’t been elected to this post, he had been appointed. He wasn't even a proper civil servant, for Christ's sake. He was a Minder. He was not “in Government” – he was working for the Government.
(c.f. Cherie Blair's infamously wrong words: "we in the British Government").
And yet, as we all know, the overspun style of New Labour politics effectively meant that the Executive and the PR-department of the Executive became one and the same thing. “The Government” became “how Government presents itself.” So Alastair Campbell is both profoundly wrong and tragically right to say that he was “in Government.”
Annoying little prig.
Again, on this morning’s Jeremy Vine show on Radio 2, Campbell twice used the phrase:
"I’m no longer in the Government…"
As the Vine interview unfolded, it became clear that in Campbell's mad head, what is important - above all else - about the Government is how it is talked about. Where Michael Howard (rightly) calls for a broader inquiry into the reasons why we went to war in Iraq, Campbell calls for an inquiry into the activities of the media:
"...let's have an honest open debate about the way the modern media operates."
He has adopted an incredibly pious attitude towards 'the media' (as if 'the media' generally is a thing which is at fault and ought to pull its socks up):
"You're beginning to remind me a little of the trade unions."
Although, bless him, he concedes...
"I am not saying all the media is bad."
He distinguishes between 'good journalists' and 'bad journalists' - the distinction seemingly being that 'bad journalists' are 'negative' about the Government. Good journalists are those who take the whip when its given without a murmur. Bad journalists, he pompously tells Vine, are those who fail to respect: "the responsibilities and duties that go along with the freedoms and rights that you rightly hold."
As if asking difficult questions wasn't the responsibility and duty of a journalist. Questioning, questioning, questioning - surely this is the duty of a journalist in a democracy. Not to sit there like a young, blind pelican with an open beak, waiting for the Downing Street director of communication to spew up his lovely tasty spin.
Campbell seems to be back-to-front (or just plain wrong) in almost all of his thinking:
"I'm frankly not interested in Andrew Gilligan. It was his report that started this whole thing off."
Amazing. No one in the universe, or any other possible universe, is as interested in Andrew Gilligan as Alastair Campbell. And as for the idea that it was "his report that started this whole thing off" - that hardly accounts for the furious battle of wills that Campbell was waging against the BBC, long before the
Gilligan broadcast. A broadcast that would never have been noticed or remembered if Campbell hadn't thrown such an extraordinary hissy fit.
And the hiss goes on: "I'm constantly portrayed as someone who rants and raves against the BBC," rants and raves Campbell, before accusing Jeremy Vine point blank of stitching him up the phone-in by 'putting certain calls through to me.' Yet more bad journalism! It's everywhere! Fight it, Alastair!
The idea that he might be challenged at all is anathema to him. (He accused Jeremy of stitching him up after only two calls - and anyway, it's not like he's being forced at gunpoint to do this enormous round of BBC interviews.)
In short, Alastair Campbell is a pompous, paranoid, jumped-up bully. A glib, condescending prig. A self-obsessed, solipsistic limelight-loving harpy. A fucker of the first order. A crap in the eye of politics. A dick up the BBC's bleeding arse.
He should sod the fuck off.