When Gordon Brown became Prime Minister in 2007, one of the many early promises he made was to end the culture of spin and partisanship in Downing Street. He told the Commons not long after he became Prime Minister that:
"All the people of this country have a shared interest in building trust
in our democracy, and it is my hope that, by working together for
change in a spirit that takes us beyond parties and beyond
partisanship, we can agree a new British constitutional settlement that
entrusts more power to Parliament and the British people."
And Harriet Harman had emphasised the point on Newsnight several weeks earlier when she explained that was looking forward to a Gordon Brown regime which would have "no spin, no
briefing, no secrets, and respect for Parliament".
So the return in recent weeks of Alastair Campbell to the political fray to advise Gordon Brown – as reported by the FT's Jim Pickard and The Independent's Andy McSmith for example – is a demonstration that such promises have been well and truly ditched.
And whilst Campbell has been credited with coming up with the odd witty one-liner for the Prime Minister of late and taken his fight against the Conservatives to the blogosphere, it is perhaps at this juncture worth remembering what he got up to when he was at Downing Street working for Tony Blair.
As Peter Oborne recalled earlier this year, Campbell – along with Mandelson – "invented the modern art of the political smear" and was behind the kind of "dripping of poison" about those challenging his master for which Damian McBride was forced to sacrifice his job earlier this year.
Here are just a few of the people who felt the wrong end of the attack operation overseen by Campbell, who are worth keeping in mind when considering that Gordon Brown is now re-engaging him for his political advice:
- David Kelly, the government scientist who later committed suicide;
- Mo Mowlam and Clare Short, whose mental states were reportedly questioned;
- Pam Warren, the Paddington rail crash survivor whose political affiliations were sought after she criticised the Government;
- Rose Addis, the 94-year old hospital patient who endured false accusations of racism after her case became embroiled in political controversy.