Thanks to Tony, and his decision to stand down on 27 June, Alastair is able to get in ahead of Harry Potter, by 12 days. The Blair Years (784 pages, [pound]25, no Amazon discount if you pre- order now) by Alastair Campbell is published on 9 July; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (608 pages, [pound]18 discounted to [pound]9 for pre-orders) by J.K. Rowling follows on 21 July.
Can you finish The Blair Years in time for The Deathly Hallows? By then Alastair Campbell will doubtless be wandering about murmuring off-record to journalists of his acquaintance about how the Deathly Hallows, Gordon, has performed in his first three weeks as prime minister.
Random House, the publisher of Campbell's diaries, is going bigger on the hype than Bloomsbury, which publishes Rowling, but then Potter has transcended marketing. Campbell tried to do the same in politics, with Peter Mandelson, the other key coauthor of New Labour, and his book purports to be "the most complete record of what governing Britain is really like", as the publicists might say, and indeed did.
There is an emerging pattern to the political fin de siecle, of which the rush to print to cash in is a key feature. I was at The Sunday Times at the end of the Thatcher era when seemingly her whole cabinet wrote memoirs of their take on the "fall". I had to read many of these, to decide whether they were worth serialising. By the time we got to the 10th version of the end of Margaret - was it Peter Walker or John Gummer? - the micro-detail was getting rather tedious.
In Campbell's case though, not only is he first out of the blocks but he is credited, if that is the word, with such expertise in the dark arts of spin, such inside knowledge of New Labour machinations, that politicians, political journalists and political anoraks are salivating at the prospect of Campbell revelations. Or should I say were? Indications are that Campbell has sexed down his own diaries. The first surprise is the decision not to offer the diaries for newspaper serialisation. Authors often make more out of selling serial rights that they do from the book itself, and although the market is not as strong as it was, Campbell as Blair goes is a hot property - if he tells not necessarily all but plenty. Newspapers, and book publishers, want revelations, as did Campbell when he was a Mirror journalist. Publishers see the newspaper serialisation as a key part of the marketing effort. Everybody wins.
In this case Random House stresses that the serialisation rights were not its own to sell; Campbell retained them. …