Burnley’s sad loss is the world’s gain, Alastair

The lobbying firm Campbell works for as an adviser has a new, very rich client


The storm will by now have struck and a five-month typhoon of phone-hacking testimony begins at the Old Bailey today, but for New Labour fans in the North-west the tempest came early with twin depressions on the 2015 election front.

Whether Jack Straw’s forthcoming retirement as Blackburn’s MP is a more savage blow than Alastair Campbell’s disinclination to stand in Burnley is hard to call. Insisting that Ed Miliband is so desperate to have him in the Commons that he offered to abandon an all-woman short list in his favour, Ali confides that “a big part of me wants to do it, and a big part of me doesn’t”.

The big part that does is the part that would yield to the deafening public clamour for his parliamentary presence. The bigger part that doesn’t is “the part that has a very different sort of life ...” And what a varied life it is, with the novels and endless diaries, appearing hourly on his beloved BBC, and a burgeoning portfolio of international consultancies.

While Ali takes credit for steering Edi Rama to power in Albania, he bashfully leaves it to The Mail on Sunday to report claims that Mr Tony Blair has helped broker a lucrative deal, through a company called Windrush Ventures Limited, between Nursultan Nazarbayev – the lifetime dictator of oil-and-gas-rich Kazakhstan (where Ali was sighted enjoying a battery-recharging break in 2011) with a slightly laissez-faire approach to human rights – and the Portland lobbying firm for which Ali works as an adviser.

Life is such a struggle for Nazarbayev – who Tony has always claimed seeks his advice on political reforms, and not on whitewashing his human rights record – last month saw him pay Kanye West a miserly $3m to perform at his grandson’s wedding, so the voters of Burnley, however heartbroken, will understand Alastair’s need to weigh the demands on his time and prioritise accordingly.

Fare thee well, Jack Straw

Returning to Jack Straw, the announcement that he will leave Parliament at the next election will ignite an inferno of debate over which was his signature triumph. Was it his 1997 refusal to reopen the Hillsborough inquiry? The sly attempt to sneak through legislation precluding even a deceased’s family from certain inquests? Or any part he played in facilitating the abduction and handing over of Libyan dissidents (and in one case a pregnant wife) to Gaddafi?

What brooks no debate is this: Jack’s retirement has nothing to do with fears that he will be lacerated by the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraqi calamity, which is expected to report next year.

We wish Jack a prosperous retirement. Should he need to supplement his pension, Mr Tony will put him in touch with a central Asian tyrant seeking guidance on how to launder his human rights record.

Startling break with army conventions

Speaking of Iraq, I am intrigued by a reflection of an army officer involved in the mysterious ringing of Heathrow airport with tanks in February 2003. Cynics and sneerers suspected that this was a stunt designed purely to ratchet up worries about terrorism and heighten public support for the invasion of Baghdad the following month. While this is patently ridiculous, the soldier tells me that, in a startling break with convention, none of the troops had any ammunition in any of their weapons.

The case of the vanishing guru

I am saddened to report that last week’s request to Keith Vaz was ignored. The chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee declined to invite Jon Gaunt to attend and explain his Plebgate role as public relations guru to the West Midlands Police Federation. The one silver lining is that Gaunty had a brief cameo in the testimony of Detective Sergeant Stuart Hinton, who richly impressed observers by robotically apologising for talking to the media immediately after the Andrew Mitchell interview, although there was no mention of the allegation he lied to Mr Mitchell about its contents. The sergeant revealed that his only media training came from a certain Jon Gaunt, though in the midst of such an assured public performance perhaps that hardly needed stating.

And thanks to crime reporter Sandra Laville for retweeting this gem from a certain @jongaunt, from 29 November last year.

“Check out my new media and campaigning website. See how we organised Plebgate and got cops massive anti-cuts publicity.” The website has since vanished, as alas has Gaunty.

If anyone spots him, let me know. In the light of all the career reverses, I hope to persuade The Specials, his favourite band, to do a charity gig, and am keen to discuss arrangements without delay.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

Day In a Page

Read Next

For all his faults, Russell Brand is utterly sincere, something politicians should emulate

Janet Street-Porter

Never underestimate the power of the National Trust

Boyd Tonkin
The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss