Monday, 1 March 2010

Outed! Why TB was innocent

With the opinion polls continuing to close over the last week, it could be an auspicious moment for Team GB and Observer journalist Andrew Rawnsley to make up, as the latter's "The End of the Party" slips quietly into the bookshops today. Or perhaps hell will freeze over first.

Next Left mused, a month ago, about the Rawnsley pledge in 2000 to out his Servants of The People sources.

“In the modest expectation that someone may find it of a future use, I will make my source material available when the current Prime Minister [Blair] is no longer in power.”

Perhaps Jeremy Vine, who has the author in conversation on Wednesday night, might try to pursue the issue of whether and when that pledge will be honoured.

Unlike New Labour's aspirations to call an electoral reform referendum, the new book does not repeat that pledge, though it does list many more sources by name. Yet an early surprise in the new book (on page 13) is that it does apparently out one Rawnsley source, of the infamous January 1998 Rawnsley Observer column, which caused perhaps one of the greatest outbreaks of the TB-GBs due to its reference to "psychological flaws".

The new book categorically states that the source - "someone who has an extremely good claim to know the mind of the Prime Minister" - was not Tony Blair himself as "some have conjectured".

Instead, Rawnsley does everything but directly confirm that Alastair Campbell was in fact his source.

Alastair Campbell always publicly denied that it was he ... He had to maintain that line to remain in his job. The edited version of his diaries published in 2007 ... has redacted the entry for Friday 16 Janary 1998, and all the days following until Thursday 22 January.

Rawnsley goes on to write that Sir Richard Wilson came to believe that he had inadvertently inspired the remark, by making a general remark about all politicians having psychological flaws in a conversation with Campbell, who "seemed excited by a phrase that could equally well describe himself".

Mere idle speculation on my part, but I wonder whether that clarification might have been made at the request of a former Prime Minister. My guess would also be that the "outed" Campbell, now working closely to advise the Brown re-election team, may well have had advance sight of the passage which puts him back in the frame in order to clear his former boss.


PS: I was amused by the account, sourced to Michael Levy, of newly elected Prime Minister Blair turning up to play tennis shortly after being elected PM in 1997.

Shortly after the first victory, [Blair] visited Michael Levy at that wealthy friend's mansion in north London. After checking that his security detail weren't looking, Blair cried 'I really did it! Can you believe it?' He started to jump up and down on the tennis court yelling "I'm the Prime Minister! I'm the Prime Minister! I'm the Prime Minister!


Robert said...

Who cares anymore, I will be sitting at home letting all you soft right socialist vote, I will not vote at this election, as for all the details about Blair and Brown I could not care just looking at both of them makes my skin crawl.

Sunder Katwala said...


Thanks for commenting. Of course I agree it is of rather esoteric interest, though one of the benefits of the blogosphere is to make more space for that!