Gordon rang me after my appearance on Frost. "Brilliant," he said. "You could be a politician"

It's now a week since I left the Treasury building for the last time (there are four exits, so no one saw me). What a week! I decided to announce my departure from my job as Gordon Brown's press adviser with an exclusive interview in the Mirror - still the only real friend of Labour. This was my first-ever interview but, having sat through hundreds with Gordon, I wasn't likely to get caught out . . . or so I thought.

I broke the first rule with the snapper - posing for a silly photo in my office. I was clearing my desk and binning papers on my last day, wearing an expression that was something between a leer and a grimace. Then I made matters worse by saying that I once told Geoffrey Robinson that he should sack Ron Atkinson (the then manager of Coventry City).

The headline the next day -"I spun it my way: how I sacked Big Ron" - was meant tongue in cheek. This did not stop one journalist, Richard Stott (who once fancied himself as editor of this magazine), from taking it all very seriously and writing of the disgrace of a spin-doctor sacking a football manager. It's amazing how many people in politics lack a sense of humour.


With my first interview over, it was time to hide for a few days. I knew that as soon as news of my departure appeared in the first edition of the Mirror the paparazzi would be back outside my Peckham house. I decided to dodge them by hiding at a pal's house in north London. My neighbours confirmed the reappearance of the pack, braying outside my windows, doorstepping everyone in sight, interrogating the milkman and the postman. Of all the messages of support and kind words that I've been receiving over the past few weeks, what I will value most is the support from my neighbours. Despite all the intimidation and harassment they have had to endure from the media, to a man and a woman they refused to talk to the hacks.

Some of the more excitable neighbours went a bit beyond the call of duty and let off the odd firecracker in the midst of the paparazzi throng; two went so far as to get into a verbal fight. Let's face it, Peckham has a better class of people than Notting Hill. They support Millwall for a start.


I decided to do one more interview for a serious Sunday paper (which meant not the Sunday Times). I chose the Sunday Telegraph. For the first time in my life I let a journalist into our home. I realised this was a mistake when he went straight to my bookshelf and my complete works of Stalin. I somehow doubted that Sunday Telegraph readers would be amused - even though they'd been given to me by a friend as a joke.


My ordeal over, I headed off to White Hart Lane and the first Spurs home match since I hit the headlines. A nil-nil draw against Wimbledon was hardly the highlight of the week. On the other hand, enjoying the banter with so many friendly faces more than made up for it. There was no violence between the fans (Wimbledon didn't have any), but there was plenty on the pitch. John Hartson assaulted Andy Sinton and should have been sent off. My mate Paul Miller, who played at the back for Spurs in the early eighties, said it was a fair tackle. Well, at least we were winning things when he was playing.


My last-ever interview was on Breakfast With Frost. I've sat on the other side of the camera during Frost interviews many times, and always in a nervous state of tension, fearful that Gordon would make a mistake - he never did. This time it was my turn.

All the advice I had ever given Gordon deserted me as I turned into a jelly. I just tried to pretend that I was in my living-room having a chat and hoped it worked. Gordon rang me as soon as it was finished. "Brilliant," he said. "You didn't gaff; you could be a politician."

That's one thing I will never be - but at least I now understand the state politicians must get into before they perform on the box. The feeling is like the last five minutes of a football match when you're one-nil up. Who says politics and sport don't mix?

But of course they do, which is why Tony Banks, the government's sports minister, has had more foreign trips than Jack Cunningham, touring the world trying to help the FA win the World Cup bid for England in 2006. If anyone has any doubt about what the World Cup can do for a country and its political leaders, just remember the smile on Jacques Chirac's face as more than a million people packed the Champs Elysees to celebrate France's victory last year.

Alastair Campbell, the man who invented the People's Princess, knows more than most how important the England bid is. Which is why my hunch is that we will win it. The rumour is that Alastair has even deserted his beloved Burnley for Man United in order to back winners. And this government knows all about winning - so put your money on the double: new Labour to win the next election and the Queen to open the World Cup at new Wembley in 2006.

This article first appeared in the 22 January 1999 issue of the New Statesman, Goodbye to all that boiled cabbage