Whelan seeks revenge in TV battle of spin-doctors

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Indy Politics

It is the moment he has been waiting for since No 10's strong-arm tactics forced him to quit as Gordon Brown's right-hand man. Charlie Whelan, the Chancellor's former press adviser, is in talks with Channel 4 about plans to make a documentary about Alastair Campbell - the man thought to be responsible for his demise.

The film, which is already being dubbed "Charlie's Revenge" at Westminster, is expected to rival the BBC's biopic of the Prime Minister's press secretary, which is currently being filmed.

A spokesperson for Channel 4 last night confirmed that discussions had taken place but said that as yet no documentary had been commissioned.

Earlier this year, Mr Campbell agreed to allow political film-maker Michael Cockerell to follow him around in a bid to dispel "myths" surrounding the Machiavellian art of spin-doctoring. Mr Cockerell's documentary-in-the-making has already raised a few hackles at Westminster where political journalists fear it will be the ultimate exercise in spin, casting a far harsher light on the press than it will on Mr Blair's official spokesman.

The fly-on-the-wall nature of the project means that not only Mr Campbell but the members of the press lobby he briefs daily are having to endure life under the spotlight.

But, as with much in modern-day politics, all is not quite as it seems. Already, journalists are complaining about attempts to "stage manage" the love-hate relationship between Mr Campbell and the press. In one instance, a lobby journalist was asked by a member of the film crew following in the wake of a Prime Ministerial visit to Wales whether Mr Campbell was "always like that" when he joined the hacks for dinner. The journalist replied: "I don't know. It's the first time he's ever come out to dinner with us."

If Mr Whelan's film goes ahead, Mr Campbell may have to brace himself for a rather more critical appraisal of his life's work. The documentary could echo the style of Peter Oborne's unauthorised biography of Mr Campbell, which famously retold the story of his first briefing of Sunday lobby journalists, at which he stormed: "So, tell me why I should be wasting my time with you bastards, when you won't write a f***ing word I tell you anyway."

Mr Whelan was forced to resign after the story about Peter Mandelson's £373,000 home loan from then-Paymaster General Geoffrey Robinson. Now he is in a position to shed light on any role that Mr Campbell may have had in that episode - and many others.

He is also perfectly placed to have seen the Prime Minister's press secretary interacting with Tony Blair, ministers and the press both in Opposition and in Government. In short, he is the perfect fly on the wall. Westminster can't wait.

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