Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/497/2679
Alastair Campbell's Diaries
Vicious bile and grovelling sweet talk
TONY MULHEARN, a member of the Socialist Party and one of the '47 group' of Liverpool councillors who fought Thatcher's Tories in the 1980s, reviews The Blair Years: The Alastair Campbell Diaries.
AS I still work for a living I have not read Alastair Campbell's door-stopping volume; but I forced myself to view the three-part BBC documentary. I remained awake long enough to assess Campbell as a graphic symbol of New Labour.
The bile displayed to the anti-war movement, for instance, sums up New Labour. Campbell describes the claim that the demonstration against the Iraq war was two million-strong as 'hopelessly exaggerated' and calls a demonstrator with an anti-war placard who confronts him a 'Trot twat'.
You can search in vain for any serious discussion. When Campbell and Mandelson came to blows, was it over a major policy issue affecting the lives of millions? No. It was over whether Blair should wear a tie when addressing a meeting.
Campbell the pit bull, Campbell the enforcer, is tough when discussing the working class and vitriolic when attacking the trade unions or workers opposing NHS cuts. But it's different in the company of capitalists or of royalty.
When he meets Princess Diana he is a drooling, obsequious courtesan. His description of her is plucked straight from the Forum magazine column he used to write before selling his talents to the Kinnock/Blair project via scribbling for Robert Maxwell.
"She's standing there absolutely, spellbindingly, drop-dead gorgeous, in a way that the millions of photos didn't quite get," he simpers. In the presence of George Bush he trembles likes a young man on his first date.
The humour of this coterie is dark. In April 2003 Campbell writes: "Clare (Short) was rabbiting on more than ever. I slipped TB [Tony Blair] a note about the time Saddam shot his health minister at a meeting because he was annoying him and did he want me to get a gun? 'Yes,' he scribbled."
Campbell recalls Lord Kinnock's blistering row with Blair over inviting Thatcher to Downing Street. "He's sold out before he got there," his Lordship declares.
This is rich coming from the man who, as Labour leader, betrayed the Liverpool 47 discharged councillors and described public ownership as 'nonsense.'
He also, at the behest of people like Rupert Murdoch, began creating the monster that is New Labour by unleashing the witch-hunt which began in Liverpool, with expulsions and the destruction of the Liverpool Labour Party as a political and social force.
Roy Hattersley commented that his faith in Kinnock was restored by this remark. Perhaps Roy was stung by the revelation that Blair described him to Blunkett as a "fat pompous bugger." "You are very wise," Blunkett replied.
One is chilled by the revelation that Blair was guided by his faith and regularly spoke to 'his maker'. How many messianic historical figures have used the hotline to God to justify their crimes against humanity?
On Blair's original intention to invite the then Lib Dem leader Paddy Ashdown into the cabinet Campbell writes: "He was making a cup of tea, and chuckling: 'We could put the Tories out of business for a generation'."
Ironically, while pressure from close associates forced Blair to scupper the plan at that early stage, no such pressure prevented Gordon Brown from appointing capitalism's direct representative Digby Jones into the cabinet.
A "Good press"
ORIGINALLY CAMPBELL promised his diaries would not be published while Labour was in office. He explained: "Initially I thought, well I'll wait... 10,15, 20 years and then just put them all out there... I started to think... it's a bit of waste for that just to sort of sit there."
A waste of money I think he meant, especially when a publisher's advance of a £1 million cheque was nestling in his hot little fist.
The total absence of any ideological or moral anchor, the use of foul language to describe political opponents or trade union leaders reveal a politically corrupt cabal of chancers who govern the country.
The absence of any democratic checks and balances is revealed constantly.
Conflict between Campbell and the media cannot be compared to the media barons' wrath directed against the left, including in the past, the genuine Labour Party left, or against militant trade unionism.
Campbell's conflict with the press is akin to ferrets fighting in a sack. Behind-the-scenes trivia and titillation is promised in exchange for a 'good Press' for his master.
Campbell reports with relish Blair's address to the Transport and General Workers Union conference where Blair shows his contempt for organised labour.
He arrogantly declares that the days of trade union influence over governments are gone. He had no need to say he takes his instructions from big business.
Even the most bovine trade union leader must know this, but they still bow the knee in exchange for some imagined promises.
Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky once said that there was a 'touch of the flunkey' about the first Labour prime minister Ramsey McDonald who, until now, was the very epitome of betrayal in Labour's history.
How would that great socialist have described the present crew, who hijacked what once was the mass party of the working class and transformed it into an instrument dedicated to enriching the already bloated capitalists who control society?
In The Socialist 26 July 2007:
Postal workers' strike
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Socialist Party news and analysis
Tales from the council chambers
Socialist Party Marxist analysis
Socialist Party reviews
Workplace news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis