Campbell conundrum

I was fascinated to read Paul Routledge's piece (14 February) suggesting that the publishing world is afraid to publish Carole Hayman's satirical novel Hard Choices because it "gets very close to the bone".

Having read it myself, and not just because Carole Hayman is a friend of mine, this certainly has nothing to do with what Routledge describes as a positively gruesome portrait of Alastair Campbell. Only someone with a complete misunderstanding of the book would suggest that one of the characters even loosely resembles Campbell.

What makes Hard Choices a disturbingly good read is its wicked humour laced with dark undertones which serve as a warning to those who still believe that there is merit in democratic politics. These clearly do not include those publishing firms that have nobly forsworn profits from sales for the sake of the promotion of purity in political thought in Britain.

Brian Sedgemore MP
House of Commons, London SW1

I, too, have read Carole Hayman's coruscatingly witty novel Hard Choices, and also found it impossible to put down. However, I feel I must correct the impression that Paul Routledge may have given when he refers to "the portrait of Alastair Campbell". There is no mention of him at all in the novel. Instead, there is a prime ministerial spinmeister who is ruthless, rude, manipulative, devious and utterly unlovable.

Blair Thomson
Watford, Hertfordshire

This article first appeared in the 28 February 2000 issue of the New Statesman, Why the party still needs its soul