Alastair Campbell’s spin cycle of violence

Commons confidential.

A righteous Alastair Campbell posing as the George Washington of British politics, a spin doctor who never told a lie, was an enjoyable sideshow during the Ed Miliband-Paul Dacre slugfest and the Damian McBride circus. The old Downing Street weapon of mass disinformation, officially decommissioned after the Iraq war, was fingered as the source of the “psychological flaws” smear against Gordon Brown in New Labour’s early days.

During those long Blair v Brown years, the Labour split extended to the press. Blairites, especially Campbell, sucked up to Rupert Murdoch and the Sunwhile the Brownites assiduously courted Dacre and the Daily Mail. A reactivated Campbell was in full destruct mode when he verbally battered a Mail executive on Newsnight. A snout whispered in my ear that the Mail is compiling a dodgy dossier on Campbell’s friendship with Rebekah Brooks, Murdoch’s most prized red top. Campbell vDacre has the smell of a dirty fight to the death.

It appears that the Tory conference motto, “For hardworking people”, didn’t impress the zillionaire hedgefund shark Michael Hintze. Alas, I’m unsure quite why. My radar-lugged source was listening intently in a lift in Manchester’s Midland Hotel as the Tory donor tutted disparagingly and declared, “This slogan . . .” before a flunkey, sadly, changed the subject. I’ve asked the source to work harder to discover the basis of Hintze’s quibble.

The TUC’s first lady, Frances O’Grady, has earned elevation to a pantheon of union leaders that includes John Edmonds and Rodney Bickerstaffe, after she rejected a gong. O’Grady, I’m assured, turned down an MBE.

Her hero, the late, great Jack Jones, declined all manner of baubles until he was offered Companion of Honour by the Queen. He accepted the title, arguing it was being bestowed on the T&G union, rather than him personally. O’Grady, I’d wager, isn’t personally interested in honours, full stop.

The GMB, a union representing binmen and dinner ladies, and which has earned a reputation as a scourge of the City, is backing an investment banker, Zaffar Van Kalwala, in the Labour target seat of Brent Central, where the Lib Dem MP Sarah Teather is retiring. The struggle takes many forms, comrades!

The former postie Alan Johnson is scribbling a second volume of his life story after the success of the first, which described how he was brought up by a teenage sister. My chap suggested his writing helps explain why the former home secretary isn’t interested in the shadow cabinet but would graciously serve in a future cabinet. Well, that and how one job comes with a salary and chauffeur but the other doesn’t.

Kevin Maguire is the associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror

Image: Montage by Dan Murrell

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

This article first appeared in the 11 October 2013 issue of the New Statesman, Iran vs Israel

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Labour to strip "abusive" registered supporters of their vote in the leadership contest

The party is asking members to report intimidating behaviour - but is vague about what this entails. 

Labour already considered blocking social media users who describe others as "scab" and "scum" from applying to vote. Now it is asking members to report abuse directly - and the punishment is equally harsh. 

Registered and affiliated supporters will lose their vote if found to be engaging in abusive behaviour, while full members could be suspended. 

Labour general secretary Iain McNicol said: “The Labour Party should be the home of lively debate, of new ideas and of campaigns to change society.

“However, for a fair debate to take place, people must be able to air their views in an atmosphere of respect. They shouldn’t be shouted down, they shouldn’t be intimidated and they shouldn’t be abused, either in meetings or online.

“Put plainly, there is simply too much of it taking place and it needs to stop."

Anyone who comes across abusive behaviour is being encouraged to email validation@labour.org.uk.

Since the bulk of Labour MPs decided to oppose Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, supporters of both camps have traded insults on social media and at constituency Labour party gatherings, leading the party to suspend most meetings until after the election. 

In a more ominous sign of intimidation, a brick was thrown through the window of Corbyn challenger Angela Eagle's constituency office. 

McNicol said condemning such "appalling" behaviour was meaningless unless backed up by action: “I want to be clear, if you are a member and you engage in abusive behaviour towards other members it will be investigated and you could be suspended while that investigation is carried out. 

“If you are a registered supporter or affiliated supporter and you engage in abusive behaviour you will not get a vote in this leadership election."

What does abusive behaviour actually mean?

The question many irate social media users will be asking is, what do you mean by abusive? 

A leaked report from Labour's National Executive Committee condemned the word "traitor" as well as "scum" and "scab". A Labour spokeswoman directed The Staggers to the Labour website's leadership election page, but this merely stated that "any racist, abusive or foul language or behaviour at meetings, on social media or in any other context" will be dealt with. 

But with emotions running high, and trust already so low between rival supporters, such vague language is going to provide little confidence in the election process.