Alastair Campbell wishes to make a quick exit stage left

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The Independent Online

Now you see him, now you don't. After less than 24 hours of being called by his own name, Alastair Campbell tried bravely yesterday to recapture his previous anonymity.

The spin-doctor formerly known as the Prime Minister's official spokesman woke up to find himself quoted, as himself, on radio, television and in the nation's newspapers.

Mr Campbell's unprecedented admission on Tuesday that the tax burden had increased under Labour ensured that his first full day in the limelight was plastered across front pages.

Clearly eager to use the newfound freedom to "out" him, BBC Radio 4's Today programme repeatedly named Mr Campbell in its bulletins, as did most other television news reports. But apparently having agreed earlier in the week that the media could attribute comments to him personally, Mr Campbell found the glare of publicity a tad too strong.

When he arrived at the daily Downing Street lobby briefing, Mr Blair's spokesman was in typically ebullient mood and proceeded to play down his tax admission made the day before. But it wasn't long before the issue of his non-anonymity was raised. Just to make things clear, Mr Campbell emphasised that he had not, definitely not, agreed to his name being used.

He admitted there was nothing he could do to prevent the media from quoting him directly, but he preferred the convention of Prime Minister's official spokesman.

Some reporters had demanded that he should be identified simply because he had invited television cameras in to cover a briefing for a documentary. "I don't necessarily agree with that," he said.

Unfortunately for Mr Campbell, his apparent candour on both his status and on tax was used and abused later by William Hague during Prime Minister's Question Time.

Worse still, despite Mr Campbell's appeal to disappear back into the Downing Street closet, radio and television reports of the Commons clash stubbornly continued to use his name. Say it loud, he's out - but he's not proud.

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