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Sunday, 15 July, 2001, 15:48 GMT 16:48 UK
Amanda Platell: Nobody's fool
Amanda Platell
Amanda Platell: Brought a touch of glamour to Tory HQ
The filming of her secret election video diary has thrown Amanda Platell into the spotlight. BBC News Online's Chris Hamilton profiles William Hague's former press secretary.

When Amanda Platell was appointed to the post of press secretary to William Hague in March 1999 she became a key figure in his attempt to revive the Conservatives' election fortunes.

I am looking forward to working with William and using my experience in the media to assist him and the party in promoting their policies and to ensure our positive message gets wider recognition

On her appointment
But derided image re-vamps and publicity stunts dogged her efforts, as did controversy over feuding inside Conservative Central Office.

A native of Perth, Western Australia, who combines charm with abrasiveness, she came to the UK on a backpacking trip in 1986 but decided to stay.

She got a job as a journalist with Eddie Shah's Today newspaper, which was engaged in a bitter dispute with the unions.

Fleet Street recognised her talents and gave her rapid promotion - she was once Labour director of communications Alistair Campbell's boss at The Mirror - until she took over the helm at the Sunday Express.

Controversy engulfed her when she published an article covering the then ex-trade secretary Peter Mandelson's relationship with a Brazilian man.

Conspiracy theory

Weeks later Ms Platell was sacked, triggering Tories - and others - to mutter darkly of a conspiracy involving Express owner Lord Hollick, a Labour supporter.

Soon afterwards, at the age of 42, she took on what was one of the most challenging jobs in British politics: top spin doctor to William Hague and the Conservative Party.

It was an appointment ordered by Mr Hague as part of a Central Office re-shaping designed to bring in more media-savvy personnel from outside politics.

I am a great admirer of that man

On William Hague
She quickly created a stir in both Fleet Street and Westminster with the publication of a novel: Scandal.

As the title suggested, it was a racy bodice-ripper with many of the central characters bases loosely on real life figures in journalism and politics.

Back in the office she quickly set about an image re-vamp for Mr Hague.

But it sparked widespread derision when a leaked 'Project Hague' memo emerged in August 1999.

It included plans for releasing a holiday photograph of Mr Hague and his new wife Ffion, perhaps an "evening walk on a beach".

William Hague and wife Ffion
Ms Platell likes to count William Hague and wife Ffion among her friends
He was also lined up for a "tactile, happy shot" on a family outing with his nieces and a picture showing him looking "relaxed and confident" before the party conference.

Later in her tenure she organised interviews with magazines such as GQ, to show the "real Hague".

That venture was judged to have backfired after he declared that as a young man drunk 14 pints of beer a day.

Another stunt that rebounded was Ffion sporting a pound-sign pendant supposedly bought by her husband.

Kitchen cabinet

It turned out that not only had Ms Platell ordered it; she had also neglected to pay for it, resulting in the supplier having to chase up payment.

Under Mr Hague senior party figures and some shadow cabinet members disliked the reliance on a "kitchen cabinet" of advisers - of which Ms Platell was a key member.

To them suspicions about her loyalty have only been confirmed by the emergence of her election video diary.

News of its existence seemed to hasten her departure after the crushing election defeat, although her close link to Mr Hague made her eventual exit inevitable.

Loyalty defended

But Ms Platell - who is still a card carrying member of the party - insists the attacks on her loyalty were and are unfounded.

She speaks of a "fierce loyalty" and the fact only her family and commissioning film maker Zad Rogers knew she was making the video.

Above all, she says, she wanted to make a film to convey her view of her much-maligned boss.

"I am a great admirer of that man. I think he's an extraordinary man and I never felt as though that greatness was coming over," she said.

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See also:

15 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Portillo aides rubbish video diary
15 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Portillo faces betrayal claims
14 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Portillo 'expects to finish second'
05 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Key Hague aide Platell resigns
13 Aug 99 | UK Politics
Cover blown on 'Project Hague'
27 Jun 99 | BBC after Birt
Tories watch for BBC bias
20 Jan 99 | UK Politics
Tories condemn Express sackings
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