Should we trust this man?
The Guardian has a revealing story about Alastair Campbell, Blair's Director of Communications, sometimes called the "real deputy prime minister". Campbell recently gave evidence before a Commons committee on the government's evidence for the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq:
At just before 3pm last Wednesday, Alastair Campbell readied himself for his grilling by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee. In his hand he held a pin - a little defence mechanism. If he was getting angry and in danger of shouting he would push the pin into his hand, to remind himself to calm down. The last thing the Government needed was Campbell losing his temper and haranguing the honourable members.
Campbell learned the trick when giving evidence in a libel action involving Labour MP George Galloway (then he used the sharp beak of a toy duck, owned by his daughter, Grace). This time, when colleagues took back the briefing notes Tony Blair's communications director had used, they were sprinkled with spots of blood.
Campbell is no stranger to odd behaviour:
According to his contemporaneous accounts Campbell came to believe MI5 was spying on him by drilling holes into his head, and held 'his allegiance to the Labour Party so strongly that he felt it would be disloyal to turn right [in the street]. Rather than take a simple right turn Campbell would insist on making three left turns before proceeding on his way.' The Fitzgeraldian Crack Up, when it came, is surrounded in mystery, but Campbell was hospitalised and it was more than six months before, with the support of Fiona Millar, he returned to work, back at the Mirror.
He has since blamed his problems of the time on his drinking, citing the day he drank '15 pints of beer, half a bottle of scotch and had four bottles of wine over lunch with David Mellor', but they were exacerbated by his inability to cope with the pressures of his job. As a result of his breakdown, some friends see him as 'edgy', others as 'tireless and obsessive';
Campbell's attacks on BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan are entirely consistent with his role as Blair's "spin doctor". The public wants answers to questions on an important but awkward subject (the absence of weapons of destruction) so Campbell is spinning the issue into a debate on the integrity of a BBC journalist. This kind of obfuscation is typical of Campbell throughout his career, as noted by former minister Mo Mowlam.
Only so confused and discredited a government as the current Labour administration could decide that this is a sensible policy. Campbell's huffing and puffing only keeps the argument going and makes the government look dishonest and foolish.