Village People: 16/01/2010


A touch of post-Chilcot stress disorder


*Five hours giving evidence to the Chilcot inquiry under the glare of television cameras would test the endurance of anyone, so you cannot entirely blame Alastair Campbell for a touch of post-traumatic stress, but this time he really has blown a gasket.

It is not just that curious rambling post on his blog on Wednesday, in which he quoted Psalm 56, reproduced great chunks of his published diary, discussed Burnley football club's search for a new manager, said he had not read the newspapers, and praised Keira Knightley's performance in The Misanthrope, in a single stream of consciousness.

Among the newspapers he claims not to have read is The Daily Mail, which reported his appearance in its usual understated way, under the headline "Shameless, Swaggering and Still Lying". Inside, Peter Oborne, Campbell's biographer, wrote him off as "an unscrupulous propagandist who lied to the British public", and sketch- writer Quentin Letts labelled him as "ex-Commissar Campbell, the Propaganda Bully."

Suddenly, into the blogosphere there popped in excess of a thousand words of undistilled Campbell rage, directed at this unread newspaper, which he calls Die Mail, and its Editor, aka "Obergruppenfuehrer Paul Dacre".

Campbell has hit on a theory that Dacre is a repressed gay who secretly fancies him something rotten. This passion, Campbell surmised, was "first lovingly bitter, then bitterly enraged, then out for vengeance" because it will never be requited.

Dacre is not alone. In the same blog, that "faux posh tosser, Peter Oborne" and "the queer-looking Quentin Quetts" also stand accused of directing homoerotic longings in Campbell's direction.

Calm, Ali – calm, calm, calm.

Mandiavelli plays up to his own image

*But that other veteran spin doctor Peter Mandelson has developed enough of a sense of humour to play up to his own image. At a BBC lunch, when was asked why the plot against Brown mounted by Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt had failed so dismally, the old Machiavelli purred: "Because I wasn't organising it."

A chance to shake off the curse of his life

*Residents of Spelthorne have until Monday to put their names down to take part in choosing their next Tory MP. The winner will be announced on Friday. One contender is Michael McManus, whose short biography on the Spelthorne Conservatives' website omits to mention that he has the patience of a saint. He needed it, because he worked for several years for that old grouch Sir Edward Heath. Heath's memoirs, The Course of My Life (1998), would never have been written without McManus's selfless assistance, for which he received next to no thanks. Proximity to Heath has been like a contamination that has blighted McManus's career, making it unlikely that any Conservative Association would ever let him near a winnable seat; but since Spelthorne is holding an open primary, maybe, for once, he is in with a chance.

Sitting uncomfortably in mutual loathing

*Which is a good enough excuse to retell a tale about the truculent Sir Edward. In October 1998, William Hague had the bright idea of persuading Heath and Margaret Thatcher to overcome their mutual loathing and sit side by side on stage at the annual Conservative conference, although the two ex-Prime Ministers had literally not exchanged a civil word since early in 1976. Heath arrived early, took a look at the stage, and spent most of the rest of the day bending Michael McManus's ear about the horrible chairs on which they were expected to sit.

Finally came the moment backstage when Heath and Thatcher met and 23 years of frigid silence was broken. Thatcher rose to the occasion, saying: "Hello, Ted. Have you seen those awful chairs?"

To which Heath retorted: "Can't see what's wrong with them."

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