Simon Carr: Why play the bully when manly charm is enough?

Sketch: He said he'd defend the accuracy and honesty of his briefings against any journalist's record
  • @SimonSketch

It's the charm of Alastair Campbell that works the magic – not the mental violence and emasculating sarcasms. It's the manly, handsome, self-deprecating, smiling charm overlaying the mental violence – that's what drew the inquiry to him. The core participants fluttered round him during an interval and the judicials came to treat him as an adviser rather than a witness.

He is not a bully. "This bullying thing is just nonsense." Spin? "This whole thing about spin is totally overdone." Were ministers frightened of Rebekah Brooks when she edited The Sun? No! Or if they were they shouldn't have been.

"Did you ever tell journalists anything that wasn't true?" There was a direct question, on oath. What on earth could he say? He said he'd defend the accuracy and honesty of his briefings against any journalist's record. As football commentators say: "You can't legislate against talent like that."

He did return to it later saying, "I never told them lies." And also, "Not a single journalist has ever produced a shred of evidence."

However, there were a couple of other moments in the session that looked a bit evidential. Hadn't he denied the tensions between Blair and Brown as inventions of the press? "I don't think I ever denied them as an invention of the press," he said. Ha!

Of the Black Rod story (Downing Street trying to insert Blair into the Queen Mother's lying in state) – it was "completely and totally untrue". I've had dinner with the gentleman in question and "completely and totally untrue" would not be sustainable in an adversarial court.

Of the Iraq run-up: "It was always perfectly clear where this was heading". That is the polar opposite of what he and they said at the time. The dossiers, if you remember, were never intended to "make the case for war".

Counsel Jay never challenged a word of this. Just when we could have done with a bit of judicial hauteur!