'Michael had a bit of a bad hair day (make that bad heir day)'

Former Tory spin doctor's election video ridicules leadership contender's preening self-promotion
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Indy Politics

Amanda Platell, who was appointed William Hague's chief spin doctor in 1999, was approached secretly by Channel 4 to keep a video diary of her private thoughts as the general election campaign unfolded.

Recorded each night as she returned to London, she is seen talking directly to the camera. Her account starts light-hearted, poking fun at Michael Portillo's "bad hair day". But as polling day nears, the bitterness emerges. On the day William Hague resigns, she struggles to hold back the tears.

These are edited extracts from the film:

Tuesday 29 May

Nine days before the election

Amanda Platell: Bad hair day. Michael had a bit of a bad hair day today. Well, that should be hair as in "heir to the throne" day.

The camera shows a photo opportunity, with Hague, Ffion and John and Norma Major. Portillo is asked by photographers to get out of the shot.

There was this guy at the back (Portillo) who kept sort of bobbing and trying to get into all the photos and the photographers sort of going, "get out".

He says, "Hi ­ do I look good in this? Does my quiff look big in this?"

That day's polls show the Tories have not moved to close the gap with Labour; one survey finds a shift against the Tories.

There's a very bad poll... If you don't believe in them you're fine but for the people who are flaky, the people who have other agendas, then it gives them ways of coming back into the story and saying, "Hague's completely misjudged this. It's not about Europe, tax, crime, education. It's about the public services and we should've gone into the middle ground of British politics and discovered something new there."

31 May

The film cuts to a shot of Hague on the same platform as Portillo and Francis Maude, the shadow foreign secretary, both whom appear to be sneering.

I think that you really very soon find out who the people are who really believe in what you're doing ­ who are prepared to lay their careers and their reputations on the line ­ and the ones who start briefing behind the scenes.

Who are they, she is asked off camera.

The only people I have been told from my sources, my contacts... Francis is doing it and Michael's people are doing it.

Sunday 3 June

Four days before the election

She admits to the camera for the first time, Hague cannot win.

I guess in my own heart I don't believe we can win, but I'd never say that to William. We wouldn't have that conversation... [he] is not the kind of man that you could go to and easily discuss failure.

She tells the camera that journalists ­ who are "like a band of thieves" ­ have been ringing her up and saying that Maude and Portillo's supporters have been rubbishing the Tory campaign.

It would be death to any potential, any "wannabe" leader if he was seen to be derailing an election campaign...So they will be very keen to keep their fingers clean, their hands clean at the moment.

Monday 4 June

Three days to go

I'm getting endless calls now from people saying, "I just had a phone call from Portillo's people who have given me all their mobile numbers for polling night."

I know it may sound a bit naïve but I still find it slightly shocking.

Thursday 7 June

Polling day

There's nothing you can do now. It's all just going to happen. I've always felt we were fighting against impossible odds ... For a little while after the fuel protests started there was a flash thing that maybe people had found them out, but it didn't last.

Friday 8 June

Hague resigns

I already knew this was in William's mind.

She tells the camera how Iain Duncan Smith and others urged her to stop Hague from going.

One of them said, "Why aren't you calling him?" I said because in my heart I don't think it's right that he should stay. I think after what he's been through... he ought to be allowed the dignity of deciding.

She continues speaking to the camera, wiping away her tears.

He's a man that inspires the most incredible loyalty and every woman and every man in that place ... they were all in tears. And that's the only time I've seen him where his voice cracked and he just stopped ­ he was just completely choked.

'Unspun: Amanda Platell's Secret Diary', Channel 4, 6.45

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