Who’s the biggest liar: Churchill or Blair? Ali knows

Plus, the greatness of Mandela has touched even Lewis Hamilton

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The Independent Online

In arguably the most oratorically dazzling speech since Dixon’s Merrie England lecture in Lucky Jim, Alastair Campbell has addressed a Melbourne public relations conference on modern communications. There is so much to enjoy here (the full text is available on his blog), but the highlight is an insight of such truth that you wonder why no one made it before.

In the arena of wartime comms, Alastair explains, Winston Churchill was a bigger liar than Mr Tony Blair. After alluding to Churchill’s deception of Parliament before Dunkirk, Ali asks this: “If the pollsters were to [ask] who had a greater commitment to wartime truth – Churchill in World War Two or Tony Blair in Iraq? – I think we know what the answer would be. It just wouldn’t be true.”

Fascinating, but then the naïve are so easily manipulated. Some might even see a distinction between misinformation born of paranoia about alerting Hitler to Allied military plans and the trifling confusion about Saddam’s weaponry.

Churchill himself was no stranger to such errors of judgement. All those wilderness years the sozzled old Pinocchio spent sexing up MoD dossiers and trotting out all that hysterical rot about German rearmament ... and Mr T comes out of this comparison as the bad guy? There is much in this speech to provoke deep reflection (the thrillingly original observation that social media has changed the PR game, for instance), but this re-evaluation of the two great wartime leaders will live longest in the mind.

Mandela’s example inspires tax exile...

The one national figure who rivals Alastair for ironic self-awareness is Geri Halliwell, who interpreted Nelson Mandela’s reference to meeting the Spice Girls – “the best day of my life” – as a plain statement of fact.

While Geri is keeping her counsel for now, Lewis Hamilton is not, and  writes on the BBC website of his relationship with a man who, on the strength of brief acquaintance, “has become like a grandfather to me”. Meeting Mandela has made Lewis realise “how little I have achieved in my life ... and how much more there is to do ...”

That humility is clearly rubbing off, and we wish him well in the quest to emulate his honorary grandfather during the forthcoming years of tax exile in Switzerland.

NI eager to boost paltry union salaries

Under the new editorship of David Dinsmore, The Sun turns its guns on trade union leaders’ salaries. In a sabbath leader, the paper sniffily notes that Community’s Michael Leahy, USDAW’s John Hannett and others earn about £100,000. Curiously there is no mention of Gordon Taylor of the Professional Footballers’ Association, whose income is estimated at anything between £450,000 and £1m. In his case, News International – relaunched today – thought that salary so inadequate that it lobbed in £700,000 compensation which opened the phone-hacking floodgates.

... and Straw another beacon of integrity

Meanwhile, the former Sun on Sunday columnist Dr John Sentamu fears he was spied on by the Met while advising the Macpherson inquiry into Stephen Lawrence’s murder.

While the Archbishop of York will forgive the force if it did bug and burgle his home, Jack Straw is in no mood to turn the other cheek, telling the Mail on Sunday he would be “profoundly shocked” if the Met is guilty as charged.

Jack remains racked by shock over British complicity in the rendition to Gaddafi of two Libyan dissidents while he was Foreign Secretary. It says much about his delicate sensibilities that he could be shocked by any domestic police misdemeanours which took place under his observant watch as Home Secretary. A beacon of integrity to us all.

Blame tennis slips on the injury lawyers

Amid the theorising about why so many players have been slipping at Wimbledon, I became concerned about Andrew Castle. Andrew is the TV face of low level ambulance-chasers First4Lawyers (if you’ve missed this masterly ad, he points out that, while “sometimes sorry makes it OK”, at other times the injury demands legal redress). While we wait to learn if Maria Sharapova and others mean to engage First4Lawyers against the All England Club, Wimbledon is urged to review CCTV footage on the off-chance that a tall, rather smug fellow has been sneaking on to Court 2 at midnight with a giant can of Castrol GTX.