Matthew Norman: Ali's sorry tale of unrequited love and the Daily Mail


It is with anguish that we address the psychiatric relapse suffered by Alastair Campbell. On his endlessly entertaining blog, Ali accuses his critics of being motivated by unrequited love. In an entry peppered with understated Nazi references, he explains away the Daily Mail's belief that he enjoys a casual relationship with the literal truth as a classic case of transference.

The disdain of mannerly editor Paul Dacre and two columnists (Peter Oborne and Quentin Letts), is solely due, he posits, to their homosexual passion for him. Those who have identified this posting as a bravely misdirected attempt at wit ignore the form book. This manifestation of narcissistic personality disorder is not the first of its kind. "What struck me most," wrote Cherie Blair of a meeting with Diana, Princess of Wales, early in 1997, "was how completely obsessed he was by the idea that she fancied him ... he kept saying to Tony, 'She really fancies me she's only asked you so that she can see me'. Although he was doing it in a jokey way, such is his ego that part of him probably really wanted to believe it."

Thirteen years on, here we go again. It is not for this column to speculate as to whether that delusion was a case of projecting his feelings for the Princess on to her, and what this might imply about his feelings for Paul now. Nor is it my business, recalling all the Nazi stuff, to reflect on the persistent hold of the Third Reich over homoerotic fantasy. But to those of us whose fears about Ali's wellbeing the years have done little to abate, this relapse is a grievous concern.

Plot spoiler

More cheerily, the publication of Ali's second novel, Maya, is imminent. With apologies for breaking the embargo, "Maya is a dark yet ultimately life-affirming historical romance, telling the tale of how the Mayan civilisation came close to destruction in 4th-century Mexico after the entire male population fell in love with a beaky-nosed, bagpipe-playing Adonis from the distant kingdom of Burnley". Available for pre-order on Amazon, Kingdom, £16.14.

Devil of a time

Ali may not be the only New Labour figure to challenge for the Booker this year. That one time wannabe Labour MP Ross Kemp (Wade as was) has also written a novel. Devil To Pay, out in July, will tell the tale of ex-soldier Nick Kane, and that's as much as we know. Ross, who recently treated Sky viewers to a nuanced examination of the Israeli-Palestinian troubles, becomes a renaissance man to rival Jonathan Miller.

The drawback is how all the other work restricts his stage career. When TV's Hardest Man made Shakespearean drama's most prophetic debut, playing Petruchio in Taming of the Shrew in 2003, two years before summoning police to his aid during a domestic with then wife Rebekah, it seemed a matter of time before he gave us his Lear. Now, perhaps, he never will.

Cameron cutie?

Touch wood the political ambitions of another media type go better. Embarking on the journo-political trail blazed by twin Tory titans Winston Churchill and Michael Gove is Sue Douglas, who vacated the Sunday Express editor's chair after translating John Major's dismissal of Europhobic colleagues as "A Bunch of Shits" into a front page headline. One of the smarter and more engaging hacks of her generation, Sue sailed through the Conservative's fast track selection procedure, and hopes for a safe seat to fight this summer. The odds aren't great, with scores of candidates after very few seats, but if Sue can get herself on to a three-strong shortlist you'd be rash to back against her.

If a leg up is required, Andrew Neil seems the man to supply it. After Sue persuaded him to buy the agency PFD, he rewarded her with the boot. The least the pretty boy could offer by way of apology is a profile-raising slot on This Week.

In the hot seat

As for the show that precedes Andrew's gurn-fest on BBC1, has Question Time ever been more laden with gravitas than on Thursday? I don't believe so. Even Colonel Andrew Roberts, the KFC heir who moonlights as an historian of the empire-besotted far right, was eclipsed by top political commentator Richard Madeley. Britain's best answer to Peggy Noonan interviewed Mr Tony Blair on Iraq, he told us, and using the antennae honed over a 30 year journalistic career was convinced the PM was telling the god's honest. Sir John Chilcot and the gang might just as well shut up shop now.

Missed a trick

Daily Mirror "Exclusive of the Week" goes to Friday's "Brown: I'll face Iraq probe before election". Typically, the reticence was as impressive as the exclusivity. The Mirror buried it on page 14, while both The Sun and the Daily Mail preferred page two.

It's torturous

We began with one of the planet's more unwittingly hilarious blogs, and so shall we end. After carefully analysing the electoral shock in Massachusetts, Melanie Phillips concludes it was all down to Obama's dislike of torture. "As Clarice Feldman notes on American Thinker," writes Mad Mel, "The key issue for Massachusetts voters was not healthcare or spending. It was national security and the treatment of enemy terrorists."

As ever, the depth of her research cannot be doubted simply because it drove her to her preferred destination. As a glance at leading US pollster Rasmussen Reports unearths, exit polling showed that 56 per cent of voters regarded healthcare as the most important issue, while 25 per cent cited the economy. You do the math.