Coming soon, the Alastair Campbell Diaries?

By Andy McSmith
Sunday 12 January 2003 01:00

Senior civil servants are increasingly concerned about a diary reputedly being kept by Alastair Campbell, which could make a millionaire out of the Prime Minister's director of communications when he eventually leaves the Government.

Questions have been raised about the volume of intelligence material passing across Mr Campbell's desk as Britain prepares for possible war with Iraq, and whether any of it has been reproduced in the diary, for which a publisher is expected to bid £1m.

They come at a time when Mr Campbell has faced criticism over the Prime Minister's New Year message, which he drafted, which angered some senior members of the Government because of its pessimistic tone.

He has also had to deal with rumours of a rift with Tony Blair over the handling of the so-called Cheriegate affair, in which Cherie Blair had to apologise publicly for her dealings with the convicted conman, Peter Foster.

Mr Campbell's diary is thought to be the main cause of friction between the Prime Minister's right-hand man and Sir Andrew Turnbull, the Cabinet Secretary.

A report in yesterday's Daily Telegraph, based on private comments made by Whitehall officials, alleged that Sir Andrew had accused Mr Campbell of having "mishandled' events and was pressing for a change in the Government's media strategy. When this was put to him directly yesterday, Sir Andrew responded: "This is news to me."

He added that he saw "no need" for structural change in Downing Street's organisation. Mr Campbell's civil service colleagues inside Downing Street say that if he is proposing to publish a diary, civil service rules will require that it is thoroughly vetted before publication to ensure that there has no breach of secrecy.

One official said: "Mr Campbell is not about to leave his job and if he was, he would be bound by the usual procedures.

"In terms of the relationship between Alastair and those who are the sources of sensitive material, it's actually one of the strongest relationships there are."

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