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11. Jul 2007

Alastair Campbell - den skrupelløse spindoktor, eller løgn som første skridt mod diktaturet

"Spindoktorer", taler vi om, at politikerne har eller har brug for for at "formidle deres budskaber". Men hvor kom de fra?

Jeg mener, de kom vel fra deres hjemstavn og familier, men hvor kom ideen fra? Vel, primært fra England, hvor Tony Blairs spindoktor Alastair Campbell, manden som egenhændigt sørgede for at "sex up" diverse memoer om Irak-krigen og peppe dem op med nødløgne, når fakta ikke pegede den rigtige vej, og som tilførte begrebet om bedrag og pressemanipulation som politisk instrument en helt ny dimension.

Jeg kan ikke sige det bedre end Simon Jenkins i The Guardian:
From his assumption of the leadership in 1994, Blair worked solidly to eradicate all checks on his office, first from the Labour party and then from the constitution. This left the press as the one critic beyond his control, a daily mirror held up by Campbell and Peter Mandelson, with a running commentary on his performance. Campbell's shielding of his weak and gullible boss from the world's most reptilian press was easy to ridicule. But after Labour's experience at the media's hands, he was right to take no prisoners. As Team Blair stripped Labour of its residual socialism and prepared for the great Thatcherite U-turn, Campbell's keeping the lid on what was happening was masterly.

Conventional wisdom holds that Blair should never have brought Campbell into Downing Street. His ego was too big and his responses too oppositional, grating and antagonistic. He treated government as if it were a football team that needed only a foul-mouthed manager to win a match. Mandelson, who had other flaws, was a more subtle spin doctor and had at least a passing interest in the reality of government. But Blair clearly craved Campbell, kept him on and left him to wrestle with an outdated government information machine that Campbell expertly reformed even as it tore him apart emotionally.

Campbell's failing was the opposite of the one usually laid at his door, that he used the power of government to corrupt the press. From the moment he entered Downing Street he used the power of the press to corrupt government. To him a good decision was anything that next day's Murdoch or Rothermere editors would applaud. If Campbell declared a policy unacceptable to the media (such as drugs reform), it was dead. Since he operated with the authority of the prime minister, ministers had to take his word as gospel. Soon government was operating on a strict 24-hour cycle, measured not in policy outcomes but in headlines, news snatches, soundbites. Success was a good picture that edged out a bad one, an "initiative", however vacuous, that smothered bad news.