Alastair Campbell’s spin cycle of violence

Commons confidential.

New Statesman
Image: Montage by Dan Murrell

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