The first tempting extracts of Alastair Campbell's personal diary, which could net him an estimated £1 million after he leaves Downing Street, were offered yesterday.
In an unexpected move, Mr Campbell made his diary available to Lord Hutton's inquiry and several extracts were read out when he gave evidence yesterday.
Mr Campbell is said to regard his memoirs as his "pension" and some ministers are wary when he takes notes during cabinet meetings. There were guffaws from some of the journalists present when he told the Hutton inquiry he did not intend to publish his diary.
He explained: "I write a diary, not every day but several times a week. It is not intended for publication. It's a series of observations."
After nine years as Mr Blair's closest aide, Mr Campbell could offer a unique insight into the Blair era and the diaries could be explosive. However, friends believe Mr Campbell will not want to destabilise the Government and speculate that he will hold back his most revealing secrets until after his boss has left Downing Street.
Publishers' interest in landing the Campbell memoirs is bound to have been enhanced by yesterday's glimpse. Referring to his adversary, the BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan, Mr Campbell writes about "the ghastly Gilligan story" that claimed he "sexed up" the Government's dossier on Iraqi weapons.
On 1 June, he admits candidly: "It was grim, it was grim for me, grim for TB [Tony Blair] and there is this huge stuff about trust." In another entry, Mr Campbell described the allegation as a "firestorm" that was "causing considerable difficulty with MPs, with the press, and by now the media right around the world".
Some extracts bolstered Mr Campbell's case that he did not harden-up the dossier. On 11 September last year, he refers to a meeting with John Scarlett, chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee: "I said: 'The drier the better - cut the rhetoric'."
On another occasion, Mr Scarlett quipped to him: "You are the brutal political hatchet-man and I am the dry intelligence official. It looks like we are being made to accord to our stereotypes."
Other entries were less favourable. One revealed that Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, raised the prospect of a "plea bargain" with David Kelly. And on 3 September last year, Mr Campbell admitted the key questions facing the Government on action over Iraq included "why now?" and "why only Iraq?".Reuse content