Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

PAUL Routledge

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

PAUL Routledge

Article excerpt

Blackpool put on its best October sunshine for the Tories, but they hadn't much else to smile about. Vast tracts of the Winter Gardens, packed with trade stands in previous years, were turned into coffee shops. The bars were virtually empty much of the day. Tabloid editors, whose presence is a useful index of power, stayed away in droves. At new Labour's bash in Bournemouth, you couldn't get to the bar for them.

Peter Stothard, editor of the Times, however, was much in evidence. He somehow managed (it's not difficult) to earn himself an intemperate attack from Bruce "Brute" Anderson, political columnist for Another Magazine. Stotty responded admirably. "Bruce," he said, "I can understand why people dislike you. I can understand why people hate you. I can even understand why people want to hit you. But I am simply going to walk away." And did so.

Central Office panjandrums wanted to bar Charlie Whelan, Gordon Brown's ex-spin-doctor. Nick Wood, the party's chain-smoking head of information and a former Times political journalist, overruled them. The Mirror, however, changed the title of Whelan's column. During the Labour conference, it was "A Few Lines of Charlie". For the Tories, it became "A Few Lines of Charles". Was this out of deference to Tory susceptibilities on class A drugs?

The long-awaited biography of Alastair Campbell by Peter Oborne, the Wodehouseian political commentator, has proved something of a disappointment. The claim that Ali did not co-operate is unconvincing. How else did Oborne get the pics of Blair's press secretary as a child?

And why did those close to him give interviews? The book is unduly gushing, but inconsistent. Ali is a towering figure of authority, and also a crawler. Furthermore, it was noticeable that only the flattering bits got serialised in the Express, Oborne's paper. Lord Hollick, the proprietor, denies responsibility. …

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