Ali C in the House

July 03, 2003 ,

IN the recent film “Ali G in da House” the comedy rapper from Staines finds himself a member of the House of Commons. This week however it was “Ali C in da House” as the Prime Ministers' famous “spin doctor” gave evidence to the Foreign Affairs Committee chaired by Swansea MP Donald Anderson.

It was quite an occasion because Alistair Campbell has only appeared before MPs on one previous occasion. That was when Rhodri Morgan chaired an inquiry into government spin.
On that occasion Rhodri famously called Mrs Thatcher's former spin doctor Bernard Ingham, a “Professor of Rotational Medicine”.

The term “spin” is a new one which emerged from American politics. It describes how backroom officials like Campbell try to put the best gloss on the policies of politicians.

In the age of the fast-moving 24 hour news media their job is to “feed the beast,” with good news. The problem comes when the “spin” spirals out of control.

Mr Campbell was there to answer the charge made by the BBC that he had “sexed up” an intelligence document about Saddam Hussein's weapons in order to persuade the public to support the war.

It was a charge he vigorously denied. But he did admit that in a briefing paper for journalists, another official had wrongly inserted parts of a student's thesis, without making it clear that it did not come from the intelligence experts. This was the so–called “dodgy dossier”.

Campbell's performance impressed most people and he challenged his accusers to show any evidence that he acted improperly. His cool performance was in stark contrast to his days as a Daily Mirror journalist. On one occasion he famously punched the Guardian journalist Michael White.

When he moved to work for Tony Blair he gave up drinking and became the Prime Minister's closest and most trusted advisor.

He made it clear that he would never “spin” intelligence when putting lives at risk. If such a charge ever were proved, no amount of spin would save Mr Campbell.