Today's Adventures of Spinspin: Alistair Campbell's media whirlwind
July 11, 2007 3:24 PM   Subscribe

Tony Blair's ex-Master of Spin and closest adviser is on a media whirlwind promoting his diary. Campbell's apparently straight talking nature gives the prospects of some tantalizing insight into the inner workings of number 10 for the majority of Blair's premiership. He's not getting it all his own way, though. BBC Radio 4's John Humphrey's on the Today Programme (Real audio) (MP3) was more interested in the failings of a government and political movement for which he was an architect and key player, and particularly Campbell's legacy of elevating the role of spin in British politics, even in the inner working of government, allegedly sexing up an intelligence dossier in order to make a more compelling case for war in Iraq (See 10 ways to sex up a dossier). The Guardian, in an article titled Did he mean me?, invited some of those named in his diaries to give feedback, or should that be biteback?
posted by nthdegx (7 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The latter article via the Matthew Parris thread.
posted by nthdegx at 3:26 PM on July 11, 2007

But talking to Campbell in the wake of Dr David Kelly's suicide, Morgan recalls: "I could tell immediately that Alastair was very un-Alastairlike. He wasn't remotely trying to defend himself or justify anything. He sounded to me like a crushed man ... I do think he took things like Kelly extremely personally. He still does ... I think every day, he thinks about David Kelly. Which is to his credit."

I'm a bit suprised by that. I always thought feelings of guilt was beyond these people.

Of course, the fuckers will never, ever admit they are in the wrong.
posted by Artw at 3:46 PM on July 11, 2007

According to his wife, writing in today's Guardian, it's not the book he really wanted to write and misses a lot of important details. Probably this is because AC is still very much part of the spin cycle.
posted by parmanparman at 3:52 PM on July 11, 2007

It seems to me that professional journalists tend to ignore the sheer hungry joy of the game that they play with professional politicians. Campbell, of course, has played at least two parts in the game. No-one is particularly keen to reveal quite how much fun the whole thing is.

When I was a kid I lived, for several years, with a low level professional politician. We all, in the family, slowly became serious politics addicts. The joys of spin, the thrill of the weaze, the palm sweating rush that you get when something comes off; these became part of my life. But our lodger left, and we all got over it. We realised that the struggles that we had been involved with were very often little more than games.

Hunter S. Thompson's Better Than Sex can still set my pulse racing. I still miss campaigning, and the wonderful high it can give you. But you live and learn, you realise that party politics is not the only, or even best, way to achieve political change. It is certainly hard to change things from outside party politics, but, in my experience, it can be even harder to change them from within.

I don't much like Campbell, although I respect his work ethic, and probably his ability to react quickly to situations. Ultimately think he's just like our old lodger, a nerd. He loves the game and the fight, and who wouldn't? I'm not sure he ever had a cause, but even if he had, I doubt it would make a difference. Party politics is, almost by its very nature, ludicrous. The joy of the game overrides the value of the stake. Anyone who can play any betting game, even a little, will tell you that, at that point, all bets should be off. The problem is that the bets always stay on, and that the stakes tend to be our money and are sometimes our lives.
posted by howfar at 5:56 PM on July 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

"When I was a kid I lived, for several years, with a low level professional politician. We all, in the family, slowly became serious politics addicts. The joys of spin, the thrill of the weaze, the palm sweating rush that you get when something comes off; these became part of my life."

howfar, do you think that politicians and journalists can get court up in this sense and then lose track of the bigger picture, or the importance of the issues at hand? I quite often associate political correspondents and editors for the UK television news bodies with a boyish sense of fun, often grinning; but perhaps losing perspective, and remembering in some case that people are living and dying by the issues that are the latest fun larks in and around parliament?
posted by nthdegx at 6:34 PM on July 11, 2007

nthdegx, I think that you're pretty much right. Party politics and its associated professions, the foremost of which is journalism, are fun, pretty much better fun than anything else in the world. The party political system offers the chance to play an incredibly complex game, to pit your wits against the best, to scheme, plan and conquer. There are rules that can be bent or broken, if you're lucky enough to get away with it.

You can probably read those words, or something very like them, on the back of a dozen different boxes in a games shop near you.

Most people in politics and journalism, it seems to me, start off with some kind of moral purpose. Most of them maintain quite a lot of that, but it becomes secondary to the joy of the activity. The morality becomes a justification for the activity, rather than its motivation. The means require an end, rather than the end justifying the means.

This isn't solely confined to Westminster, however. Take notice of what is going on in local politics, and you will start to pick up on similar themes. As an example, since the creation of the Welsh Assembly, Cardiff has become a veritable political funfair. But just go and read the apparently boring bits of your local paper, and you'll find a world of intrigue and ingenuity to rival any game of Diplomacy I've ever played.
posted by howfar at 7:01 PM on July 11, 2007

It's all fun and games until someone commits suicide in some woods.
posted by Artw at 8:48 PM on July 11, 2007

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