When Tony Blair agreed that I could work for Gordon Brown at the Treasury, he told me that he couldn't imagine life without his spin-doctor Alastair Campbell. We can see why.
When a minister - even a Prime Minister - is in deep trouble, as Blair is over his "dodgy dossier" on Iraq, there is nothing better than to have someone else to take the flak. Campbell is more than happy to be attacked over his role in producing the document. That he changed a phrase in a student's thesis in order to justify the war is good news for Blair, the real culprit.
It was the Prime Minister who signed the introduction to the other "dodgy dossier" claiming there was evidence that Britain could come under attack from Saddam Hussein in 45 minutes. But Campbell knows that his cut-and-paste document makes a much sexier story than the other one, which implicates his boss.
There was never any chance that Blair's spin-doctor would not appear before the Commons select committee investigating the handling of intelligence on Iraq. Campbell knows that the longer the media focus on the bag-carrier, the easier life is for Blair. So does his boss. Unsurprisingly, the Tories, too, fall for this by calling for Campbell's resignation. I will never forget the day Peter Lilley called for my head over some briefing I had allegedly given at the Red Lion pub. A big cheer went up in the Treasury because, with the press concentrating on me (the irrelevant spin-doctor), Gordon Brown escaped criticism.
Campbell should have resigned years ago. His very presence ensures that "spin" stays in the headlines. But Blair is determined to keep his protector, no matter how much damage he continues to do to the Labour government.