Campbell at loggerheads with BBC for grilling over Iraq Inquiry

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Indy Politics

Alastair Campbell was embroiled in another row with the BBC last night after breaking down on television as he answered questions about the Iraq war.

Tony Blair's former Downing Street communications director accused the BBC presenter Andrew Marr of pursuing an "agenda" when he pressed him over whether the former Prime Minister misled Parliament over Iraq's weapons before the 2003 invasion.

Mr Campbell, who was assured and unrepentant during a five-hour grilling by the Iraq Inquiry last month, became emotional during his appearance on The Andrew Marr Show and appeared to struggle for breath as he did not speak for several seconds. "Forgive me for this, I've..." he said. "I've been through a lot of this, Andrew. And I've been through a lot of that inquiry... and, er... Tony Blair, I think is a totally honourable man."

He went on the programme to promote his new novel, Maya, but admitted later that Marr had upset him by referring to it as his "new work of fiction" – which he took as a barbed reference to the controversial dossier on Saddam Hussein's weapons published in September 2002. The claim by a BBC reporter that the dossier had been "sexed up" eventually led to the Hutton Inquiry and the resignations of BBC chiefs Gavyn Davies and Greg Dyke.

Later Mr Campbell told Sky News: "I did get quite upset with Andrew [Marr] this morning. I feel sometimes we are treated in this media bubble... like somehow you are devoid of humanity – you don't really have feelings, you don't really care about things.

"I know how much I care about it, I know how much Tony Blair cares about it."

Writing on his blog, he said Marr, the BBC's political editor at the time of the Iraq war, was "no longer interested in the truth".

"[I] let my mind race for a while, controlled the emotions surging around, then carried on," rather than make remarks about the media that he might have regretted, Mr Campbell wrote.

William Hague, the shadow Foreign Secretary, who was interviewed on The Andrew Marr Show immediately after Mr Campbell, said: "We are all upset by what happened in Iraq. I am very upset that it seems our soldiers were often sent into action without the necessary equipment because of poor political decision-making, that there was no plan for the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq."

Gordon Brown fought back tears as he spoke about the death of his daughter Jennifer Jane in a television interview with Piers Morgan to be shown on ITV next Sunday. He also referred to the possibility that his three-year-old son Fraser, who has cystic fibrosis, may have a poor life expectancy.