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Last Updated: Monday, 9 July 2007, 14:48 GMT 15:48 UK
How significant is Campbell diary?
Analysis
By Nick Assinder
Political correspondent, BBC News website

A penetrating insight into a fascinating period of government, or the latest bit of spin from a Blairite propagandist trying to rewrite history?

Alastair Campbell
Mr Campbell has left out much about Gordon Brown
Alastair Campbell's diaries have already attracted both descriptions. Perhaps worse, however, is the widespread criticism that the 800 page work has a yawning Gordon Brown-sized black hole at the centre of it.

Mr Campbell has been happy to confirm that he left out big chunks about the relationship between the current and former prime ministers for the simple reason he didn't want to hand David Cameron ammunition - thereby confirming these "lost" episodes would be damaging to the Labour government.

He will, however, get around to recounting them some time in the future.

The truth is, everybody and his dog already knows that the relationship between the two biggest political figures of the past decade was often bitter, divisive and even threatening to the smooth working of the government.

Plenty of other insiders have detailed some of the spats, sulks and fallings-out so all that Mr Campbell could probably have done, under the self-imposed constraints, was add more vivid colouring to the scenes.

And that is, frankly, what his published words seem mostly to have accomplished.

Some colour

There is plenty about the Iraq war, the subsequent row with the BBC and the death of David Kelly, none of which will come as a great surprise to anyone except, perhaps, the hints of more widespread cabinet concerns over the war policy than admitted at the time.

The fact that civil servants planned for a John Prescott-led interim government if Mr Blair had lost the Commons vote on the war and been forced to resign will raise a few eyebrows.

But there are none of those breathtaking moments, the "killer facts" that we have come to expect, or at least hope for

However, as Mr Prescott was the deputy prime minister at the time, even that should not come as a huge revelation.

Similarly, Mr Campbell recounts the events surrounding ministerial resignations - notably Peter Mandelson's brace of them - in great, but already-known detail.

He does add some colour, however, by revealing just how much Mr Mandelson believed Mr Brown was determined to "destroy" him.

And that is the general run of it. All the events during his time in Downing Street are covered in great detail and with plenty of anecdotes - such as the time Tory Nicholas Soames rang him at home, declaring, "you sex god, you Adonis, you the greatest of all great men", before realising he was talking to Mr Campbell's young son.

No idea

But there are none of those breathtaking moments, the "killer facts" that we have come to expect, or at least hope for.

To take just one example, 2002's "Cheriegate" affair which saw the prime minister's wife embroiled in a major controversy after buying two flats in Bristol with the help of conman Peter Foster, the boyfriend of her "lifestyle guru" Carole Caplin.

Cherie Blair
Mrs Blair faced crisis over Bristol flats
Political journalists who covered that story know they were misled by Downing Street spokesmen who had been told by Mrs Blair that Mr Foster was not giving her financial advice on the purchase of the flats.

They know it because those same spokesman later had to apologise for the fact.

Mr Campbell colours in the edges of the picture by revealing just how "in denial" the prime minister was about the affair and how "they were deluding themselves" over it.

He also states that Mr Blair was: "Always against the idea of a flat on political grounds, but also until today he had no idea they had bought two."

Another era

But he goes on to add: "This problem arose, like others before, because TB and CB so often wanted to believe the best and ended up doing so."

However, it all came to a head when, during one of Mr Campbell's regular runs, he took a call from the prime minister which ended with a huge row over the link with Mr Foster and Mr Campbell declaring he was on the verge of quitting over it all.

So, nothing stunningly new in these diaries, although a diverting read for those who also lived through these events and may have a radically different take on things.

And then there is the problem - the one which perhaps explains why Mr Campbell has rushed out the diaries within a fortnight of Mr Blair quitting.

Things have moved on with such astonishing speed, as they do in politics, that these events already seem from another era altogether.




SEE ALSO
Quiet alternative to Campbell spin
31 May 07 |  UK Politics
Extracts from Campbell memoirs
09 Jul 07 |  UK Politics
Campbell backs Johnson deputy bid
19 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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