Battle for the truth: Abbott, Portillo, Campbell

Alastair Campbell was offered an opportunity to reflect on the unsavoury articles on Gordon Brown in the Sun newspaper, in Andrew Neil’s BBC’s This Week programme on Thursday evening. It provided illuminating exchanges between Alastair Campbell, Diane Abbott and Michael Portillo. Yet further evidence of the low regard in which Alastair Campbell is generally held. Certainly by me too, and never better expressed than in Michael Howard’s critique of his malign influence.

At around 5 minutes into the This Week video, which hopefully someone will put onto YouTube, Michael Portillo recalled a time when he heard Alastair Campbell abuse a journalist. Here’s what Portillo says, and the picture is of Campbell’s reaction,

Portillo: “You were screaming abuse down the phone on a daily basis.”

Campbell: “So you say, Michael.”

Alastair CampbellPortillo: “I heard you. Sometimes the lines are open.”

Campbell: “Balls.”

Portillo: “It’s not balls at all. There was an occasion when I was on the line, waiting for an interview as secretary of state, and Tony Blair was on before me, and the line was open. You then, in my hearing, abused the interviewer, because he’s asked some question which you’d told him he couldn’t ask. The deal you had with the media was, you would abuse them if they didn’t do what you wanted them to do … and then you wouldn’t give them the stories. You did that every day of your working life.”

Campbell: “Absolute bilge …”

Abbott: “You can still see the bruises on them. … I’m talking about  journalists that you used to go lobby meetings. Your modus operandi was about bullying.”

Campbell: “I know you don’t like saying good things about the Labour government. ….”

Abbott: “Here we go, here we go.”

Later in the exchanges,

Campbell: talking about Blair being a conviction politician and moving the Labour Party to the centre ground with left of centre values, which Campbell says, “…is where he [Blair] and Diane would… disagree”

Abbott: “We disagreed on the Iraq war to name but a few, which is not something you’d like to remember.

Abbott: “Would you come back to help [The Labour Party]?”

Campbell: “I probably help more than you do Diane, that’s for sure …”

Abbott: ” …. I’m turning out people to vote in my own constituency. Many of whom were worried about some aspects of what you represented in the Labour Party.”

Spot on Diane.

Question Time & This Week review

Here’s my take of the BBC’s Question Time and This Week programmes last night. I do wish they weren’t on so late at night, as watching both takes my bedtime past 1.0 pm in the morning. Ah well, let’s get straight to the points of note from both programmes,

  • Question Time often throws up startling audience contributions, which David Dimbleby was keen to remind limp Labour Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw that the programme was about audience participation. You could almost hear the gasp in the room when one person, talking about the question of extra troops for Afghanistan, said the hear grandfather won a Victoria Cross fighting there in 1935. An unbeatable audience contribution. By the way, should we call this our fourth or fifth Afghan war, we were there in 1840, 1880, 1919, and so it seems in 1935, and now in 2009. I make it the fifth Afghan war we’ve been involved in. 
  • A must watch contribution from David Starkey on government lies, cover up and pursuit of celebrity.
  • Again in Question Time, Ben Bradshaw, the Culture Minister, said he had little or no knowledge of the Roman Polanski affair of illegal sex with a minor, ridiculously claiming the scandal occurred before he was born. He was rightly ‘monstered’ by David Starkey. Normally this would be career limiting performance, but as he’ll be out of office shortly, I guess it’ll make no difference.
  • This Week had an illuminating spat between Labour MP Diane Abbott and part-time judge Constance Briscoe, about how the benefit system has undermined the principle of personal and family self reliance. Diane Abbott was most put out that her left-wing values were being challenged by another black woman. Do take a look at her short video report, where she blamed all politicians for social breakdown.

All well worth staying up for.