Leading Article: The unwelcome reappearance of Alastair Campbell

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The Independent Online
THE FOLLY of the Prime Minister's decision to give Alastair Campbell a role in Labour's election campaign team is already glaringly obvious. The latest gaffe from Tony Blair's former director of communications was to send - accidentally - an abusive email to BBC2's Newsnight that concluded: "Now fuck off and cover something important you twats!"

Such ranting could be dismissed if it came from a foul-mouthed viewer but when it comes from a figure who is, once again, at the heart of our government, the media must take it seriously. Mr Campbell only has himself to blame for the spotlight that will be shone on his role and the questions that will be raised about his character. Gordon Brown's former spokesman, Charlie Whelan, once observed: "The job of press secretary becomes extremely difficult if the press secretary, and not the department he serves, becomes the story." Mr Campbell is learning this lesson once again.

No one denies Mr Campbell's expertise in the dark arts of political campaigning. Drawing on his background on red-top newspapers, Mr Campbell has been ruthlessly effective in promoting his political masters and discrediting their opponents over the years. The Prime Minister's desire to have his old press secretary back at his side, as a general election looms into view, is understandable.

But Mr Campbell's return comes at a price for the whole political process. The tone of the debate between Labour and the Tories has already fallen since his return, and he has finally admitted being behind one of the posters accused of playing on anti-semitic prejudices . It was this controversy that provoked Mr Campbell vitriolic email to Newsnight.

But more than this, Mr Campbell's role in the election is a reminder of the egregious faults of this Government: - the reliance on spin, the bullying tactics, and perhaps most dangerously for Labour, the invasion of Iraq. It was Mr Campbell, lest we forget, who was instrumental in compiling the disgraceful dossier of half-truths and exaggerations that helped lead this nation into war. Mr Blair should reconsider his decision to call Mr Campbell back to his side, both for his own sake and for the sake of British politics.