Charlie Whelan says . . .

Don't believe it - "Campbell set to leave"

For about the tenth time in as many days, the press has reported that the Prime Minister's spin-doctor - I refuse to call him anything else - is about to quit. Now I know that summer has come early this year, but surely there are other things to write about. The obsession with the BBC and spin shown by the media themselves is surpassed only by the government's obsession with the topic. In the past week, I spoke to two of Labour's brightest MPs and both of them talked of little else.

Peter Hain obviously felt a little uncomfortable chatting to me before an interview on Radio 5 Live, because he was still angry about something I had written about him that I had completely forgotten about. The conversation soon turned to the whole issue of political reporting. Hain had recently felt the full force of the media when he wanted to talk about tax. OK, so the press did go a bit over the top, but who was it that pre-briefed the speech to the Mirror in the first place? If you want to play the media game, then you have to accept the consequences. And sorry, Peter, if I upset you.

Phil Woolas has even more experience of the media than his boss, having worked for the BBC and as a union spin-doctor. But even he seems to have become obsessed with the BBC's political coverage. The problem is that in the Westminster village, everything the media say is analysed by new Labour's spin machine. Doesn't it realise that not everyone reads every newspaper and watches or listens to every news bulletin?

At least Hain and Woolas are prepared to listen to advice. They both asked what I thought should be done about spin. They both got the same answer: sack Alastair Campbell. Have a happy holiday, Alastair.

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