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Extracts from Campbell memoirs
Tony Blair's former press chief Alastair Campbell has published his diaries. The Blair Years cover the run-up to the 1997 election win through to the Iraq War's aftermath. Here is a selection of extracts:


Tony Blair (TB) warned Gordon Brown (GB) as early as December 2001 that he would only support the Chancellor as his replacement if he was not forced from office, according to Alastair Campbell's diaries

He describes a "difficult" dinner on 19 December 2001 where Mr Blair and Mr Brown discussed his succession.

"TB had given him a pretty frank assessment of why he (TB) was generally thought to be an OK PM - because he had breadth, could deal with a stack of different things at once, and get on with a range of people. He told him he still believed he was easily the best person to follow him but he was not going to support him in circumstances where he felt he was being forced out."

Mr Campbell says has taken out a lot of his diary entries relating to the Blair Brown relationship. But some material remains. On polling day, May 1 1997, he describes the "bad tempered conversations" between both men on the forthcoming reshuffle, with Mr Brown wanting the full list of junior ministers, although they had not yet been finalised.

On 17 February 2001, he describes how some of Gordon Brown's supporters were upset at Mr Blair agreeing to an air strike against Iraq. "His (Brown's) disciples seemed to think we had deliberately bombed Iraq as a way of minimising coverage," he writes (referring to Gordon Brown's Labour spring conference speech). "They really seemed to believe it too."

On Monday April 29 2002, Mr Campbell writes about Mr Blair's worries about ministers transferring their loyalty to Mr Brown. "TB's big concern re the GB situation was the feeling that ministers were unsure what their instincts were meant to be, because though we were the present, they realised GB was the future. TB needed to be clear that they were answerable to him."


7 September 2002, on persuading President Bush to go to the UN over Iraq: "As we left Bush joked to me, 'I suppose you can tell the story of how Tony flew in and pulled the crazy unilateralist back from the brink.' "

On 28 February 2003, after just 5% of people questioned in Spain back the war: "TB said to [Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria] Aznar that 4% was roughly the number you could get in a poll for people who believed Elvis was alive, so he had a struggle."

On 17 March 2003, the eve of the Commons decision on Iraq: "JP [John Prescott], John Reid and one or two others looked physically sick. [John Reid] said... we will be judged by the Iraq that replaces Saddam."

On the day of the Iraq vote, Mr Campbell writes: "TB's speech in the house was one of his best.

"Very serious, full of real argument, confronting the points of difficulty and we felt it moving our way.

"All of us I think had had pretty severe moments of doubt, but he hadn't really, or if he had he'd hidden them even from us.

"Now there was no going back at all."

Shortly before the Commons debate, Mr Campbell recalls President Bush promising: "If you win the vote in Parliament, I'll kiss your ass."


On 4 May 1995, Mr Campbell writes: "She's standing there absolutely, spellbindingly, drop-dead gorgeous, in a way that the millions of photos didn't quite get.

"She said 'Hello', held out her hand and said she was really pleased to meet me, so I mumbled something back about being more pleased.

"'It would make a very funny picture if there were any paparazzi in those trees,' she said."

On 30 August 1997, he describes Tony Blair's reaction to Diana's death: "I don't think I'd ever heard him like this. He was full of pauses, gabbling a little, but equally clear what we had to do.

" 'I can't believe this. I just can't believe it,' said TB [Tony Blair]. 'You just can't take it in, can you?'

"And yet, as ever with TB, he was straight onto the ramifications."


On 30 August 2000, Mr Campbell's diary records: "TB said it was important I understood why parts of Thatcherism were right.

"TB said, 'What gives me real edge is that I'm not as Labour as you lot'.

"I pointed out that was a rather discomfiting observation. He said it was true.

"He felt he was in the same position he had always been and we were the people who had changed to adapt."


On 11 September 2001: "TB was straight onto the diplomatic side... said that we had to help the US, that they could not go it all on their own, that they felt beleaguered and that this would be tantamount to a military attack in their minds.

"He said the consequences of this were enormous.

"He'd been going on about Bin Laden for a while because there had been so much intelligence about him and al-Qaeda."


"TB called me through and we went out for a chat on the terrace," Mr Campbell recalls of 11 June 2002.

"He said, 'In all truth I've never really wanted to do more than two full terms.'

"It was pretty clear to me that he had just about settled his view.

"The big question was the same as before - does it give him an authority of sorts or does it erode that authority, and do people just move automatically towards GB [Gordon Brown]?"


On 12 May 1997: "TB said he reckoned he could see a way of sorting the Northern Ireland problem.

"I loved the way he said it, like nobody had thought of it before. I said what makes you think you can do it when nobody else could?"

On 11 December 1997, the day of the first Sinn Fein visit to Downing Street: "I shook [Sinn Fein's Martin] McGuinness by the hand, who, as he sat down, said fairly loudly, 'So this is the room where all the damage was done.'

"It was a classic moment where the different histories played out.

"Everyone on our side thought he was referring to the mortar attack on [John] Major and we were shocked.

"Yet it became obvious from their surprise at our shock that he was referring to policymaking down the years and Britain's involvement in Ireland."


On 18 May 1999 Mr Blair had a disagreement with US President Bill Clinton, Mr Campbell writes: "They had spoken for over an hour and the first five to 10 minutes was taken up with Bill in a total rage.

"TB said BC's outburst was 'real, red-hot anger'. He felt he was just getting a lot out of his system and TB was the only one he could let rip with."


6 April 2002: "The truth is I have a limited vocabulary. I'm not great with words. I have to think about what I say carefully."


April 2003: "Clare was rabbiting on more than ever. I slipped TB [Tony Blair] a note about the time Saddam shot his health minister at a meeting because she was annoying him and did he want me to get a gun? 'Yes,' he scribbled."


Senior civil servants planned for a caretaker government led by John Prescott if Tony Blair resigned after losing a vote on the war in Iraq. In March 2003, Andrew Turnbull, the then Cabinet secretary, looked into "how a JP caretaker premiership would operate".

Mr Campbell recounts a meeting of Tony Blair and senior No 10 staff "to go through some of the what-ifs, including him (TB) going if we lost a vote. TB said he felt that there had to be a vote on a second resolution and if it was about the use of troops and he lost a vote on that, he would have to go.

"The Tories were making clear they would support us on a war motion but not on a confidence motion. Andrew Turnbull was quietly looking into how a JP caretaker premiership would operate."


10 August 2003: Mr Campbell describes leaving his family holiday in France to pick up his diary, to hand in as evidence to the Hutton Inquiry into the death of government scientist Dr David Kelly.

"As I left the house, and said goodbye to Fiona, I did actually wonder momentarily whether it would be the last time I saw her, whether what I discovered on reading my own diary would be so awful that I would want to top myself.

"It was only a passing thought, but it was there, and it came back several times as I drove down to Marseilles. I knew I had done nothing wrong, but in this climate, things had gone beyond reason, it was like a drama or a novel, and nobody had control of events."

Alastair Campbell discusses his diaries

The Tony Blair story
10 May 07 |  UK Politics
The Blair government and the BBC
10 May 07 |  UK Politics
Campbell diaries to be published
08 Mar 07 |  UK Politics

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