OBE! WMD! Alastair Campbell and Armando Iannucci in Twitter spat
An award for the creator of 'The Thick of It' was too much for the spin-doctor who does not believe in the honours system
He is one of Britain's most talented political satirists, well-known for parodying the inner workings of New Labour. But Armando Iannucci, creator and writer of The Thick of It, was accused of hypocrisy yesterday by Tony Blair's former spin-doctor over his decision to accept an OBE.
The comedian who wrote the potty-mouthed political mouthpiece Malcolm Tucker was targeted by Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair's No 10 spokesman, on the social networking site Twitter yesterday, for joining the "establishment he claims to deride". In a reference to his believed fictional alias, Mr Campbell added: "Malcolm Tucker and I do not approve of honours system."
But Iannucci was quick to respond, tweeting: "It's probably more establishment to order your army to march into other countries for no reason. Swings and roundabouts," an implied reference to Mr Campbell's role in the Iraq war.
Mr Campbell retorted: "You see, your wit a bit tired and blunt already. Three little letters can have more impact than you realise. Tut tut." But it seemed the comic talent won the debate when he swiftly rebuked: "WMD" – weapons of mass destruction – the alleged, and now discredited, reason for going to war in Iraq.
While Iannucci left the conversation, Mr Campbell continued to tweet him publicly. In one message, he adopted the voice of the fictional Tucker to tweet: "OBE 'F-ing make him what he is by taking on public school establishment w---ers & he f-ing joins em' Jeez-o."
The spat prompted an online debate whether satirists or journalists should accept honours. Mr Campbell, who turned down a peerage from Gordon Brown three years ago, tweeted that he had rebuffed the offer twice.
The BBC broadcaster Andrew Neil waded into the row, asking Mr Campbell and Iannucci why "somebody who constantly parades their anti-establishment credentials accept[s] such a bauble?" He made his views clear, when he added: "Journalists should never accept honours from people we are supposed to be holding to account!!!"
When Mr Campbell suggested that Mr Neil would "not take an honour", the former editor of The Sunday Times responded: "You are more right than you know," suggesting he had been offered, but refused, such an award.
Other satirists and commentators who have snubbed the honours system are the comedy duo Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders, author Aldous Huxley and writer and journalist Evelyn Waugh. The poet Benjamin Zephaniah refused an award, as did the novelist Graham Greene, Roald Dahl and artist David Hockney, singer David Bowie and Oscar-winning actress Vanessa Redgrave. The artist L S Lowry holds the most records for the numbers of honours declined.
Iannucci assured people his OBE for services to broadcasting would not stop him ridiculing politicians. "I just hope it's not an attempt by the Government to stop me because that's not going to happen."
From the blogs
Have you ever picked up a box of 100 books? This week has found the two of us lugging around the eq...
Mathew Jonson has been a hero of mine for quite some time now. His timeless piece, Marionette, was o...
A slight deviation from style this week and admittedly a bit weird, but at least I can finally say I...
We love London for its multiculturalism, so we’re all about that cross-cultural life this weekend by...
IoS exclusive: MI5 'tried to recruit' Woolwich attack suspect Michael Adebolajo
Fire and fury in Sweden as riots spread
EDL marches on Newcastle as attacks on Muslims increase tenfold in the wake of Woolwich machete attack which killed Drummer Lee Rigby
Fallen angel: Winona Ryder on bouncing back from her decade in the wilderness
Hurricane season fears as warning satellite fails
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Nook is donating eReaders to volunteers at high-need schools and participating in exclusive events throughout the campaign.
Get the latest on The Evening Standard's campaign to get London's children reading.
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.