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

Share

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

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

An unelectable extremist who hijacked their party has already served as prime minister – her name was Margaret Thatcher

Jacques Peretti
 

I don't blame parents who move to get their child into a good school

Chris Blackhurst
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent