It’s just not how a leading professional communicator should be treated, is it? Alastair Campbell tonight faces a demand from the former Lib Dem leader, Sir Menzies Campbell, that he be recalled to the Chilcot inquiry after I spotted that the former Spin King had written to Chilcot, “clarifying” his evidence.
Campbell decided he needed a second go at saying what he really meant over an issue which is emerging as a key area of interest for the enquiry. It is the claim, written by him in the WMD dossier, and repeated by Tony Blair, that the “assessed intelligence” had established continued Iraqi WMD production “beyond doubt.” But the intelligence, of course, established nothing of the sort, as both Blair and Campbell must have known.
Campbell is right to be edgy about this. The inquiry members have already expressed open scepticism about the phrase. But as Sir Menzies points out, the former Chief Persuader’s tortuously-worded clarification actually makes the picture less clear, not more.
Various impertinent commentators have said that Campbell is trying to “muddy the waters” over something he knows he screwed up. But today, on his blog, we have a further contribution to the debate from Alastair himself. Third time lucky? Not quite.
“I accept I could have tried to make the first sentence shorter,” he concedes, but then does no more than repeat the inquiry’s original question, his original fervent defence, and his convoluted clarification. What does it mean? It can’t mean nothing, otherwise Campbell wouldn’t have done it. So I’m appealing to readers, especially any experts in Saussurean linguistics out there – any suggestions more than welcome…