Charlie Whelan says . . .

Don't believe it - "Conservative Party to sue the <em>Times</em>"

When the Times splashed the story alleging that Lynton Crosby, the Tories' new Aussie chief spin-doctor, had privately admitted to Michael Howard that he couldn't win the next election, most of us thought it wasn't much of a story. It is now.

Sometimes it is impossible to understand what goes on in the minds of so-called professional election strategists. The decision of the Tory high command to issue a libel writ over the story is completely bonkers. All it does is get a largely forgotten story, which was strenuously denied, up and running again. Yet I expect that even my old pal Andrew Pierce, the Times diary editor whom the Tories are suing, will have been surprised his story was on the front page and not in his diary. It is this perceived anti-Tory bias and the utter hatred for the Times at Conservative Central Office that have made them take this rash decision.

One thing is certain in my mind: this case will never get to court. Can you imagine the fun we would all have if it did? Howard in the dock, after a humiliating defeat, claiming that he really did think his party could win? I'm told that Crosby gives out a prize to the head-office "worker of the week" for the best PR scam. I bet he won't be awarding it to himself. The most surprising aspect of the daft decision to sue is that it came just as Labour was losing the plot, thanks to Blair's even dafter decision to bring back Alastair Campbell.

Campbell's return has delighted the Tories, who can falsely blame him for all sorts of dirty tricks and get Labour "spin" back on the agenda. It has infuriated Alan Milburn, who has been made to look like the boy-pupil being guided by the master.