Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Review : The Insider & The Spin Doctor’s Diary



The Insider – The private diaries of a scandalous decade by Piers Morgan and The Spin Doctor’s Diary – Inside Number 10 with New Labour by Lance Price

Reviewed by Sean Badal

There’s almost a perfect synergy between these two books. Both books are a catalogue of horrors of the Blair regime and both feature extensively the same grisly cast of characters.

Lance Price was hired as Tony Blair’s “special advisor” in June 1998 and he served in this capacity until 2001. He was, he admits, responsible for spinning Labour stories in the media. He was also deputy to Alistair Campbell, Blair’s ferocious hatchet man, his Bormann and Goebbels rolled into one. Price, a former BBC correspondent, says he got the job on the strength of a few strangulated conversations with Blair and Campbell.

Christ, when I think of all the application forms I had to fill in…

In 1994, Piers Morgan was appointed editor of News of the World, also on the back of a few cryptic exchanges with Rupert Murdoch. He was fired and took up post as editor of the Daily Mirror, a left-leaning redtop in the UK. On the 12th of May 2004 Piers Morgan was fired from the Mirror. The book starts with a 2004 prologue and is an account of those horrible few days leading up to his firing. It’s like watching a train smash in slow motion. Morgan was booted out because the Mirror published those pictures of British soldiers allegedly abusing Iraqi prisoners. The Trinity Mirror group, whose shareholders were New Yorkers, were itching to get rid of him anyway because of his anti-war stance. The fake pictures were a perfect opportunity and there was much hand-wringing about Piers’ dastardly deed. Mmm...let’s see, starting a war and killing thousands of innocent people is okay then?

The sad thing about Piers Moron’s downfall is that I could have told him those pics were fakes. The moment the Mirror landed on my desk, I knew they didn’t look right. Still, the Daily Mirror was the most vociferously anti-war newspaper (even the Guardian rallied around Tone in his hour of need). The Mirror also published John Pilger’s polemical articles before and during the war. Pilger had been sacked from the Mirror twenty year’s previously when Robert Maxwell was owner.

Whilst The Insider is full of salacious gossip (Morgan crossed paths with princess Diana and a host of other airheads), it is the political stuff that is most gripping.

Both Price and Morgan cover the same political characters and they loom large in both books. In no particular order, they are Alistair Campbell, Rupert Murdoch and Peter Mandelson.

It is a mystery to me why Campbell is still allowed to walk this planet a free man while Saddam sits in jail. From the death of David Kelly to the murder of thousands of Iraqi children, Campbell was directly complicit because of his scheming and plotting.

As for Mandelson, the less said about this oleaginous creep, the better. Having once crossed paths with him myself, I can vouchsafe that he is as every bit as repulsive in real life as he is portrayed in print.

There are intriguing vignettes of Murdoch in the two books. He is the Citizen Kane character, pulling invisible strings. The enormity of the man’s power is scary, and despite Blair’s protestations, he is, as Price says, another member of the cabinet. Price wrote an interesting article in the Guardian last month on the Murdoch/Blair relationship. Rupert Murdoch is effectively a member of Blair's cabinet.

The only person to emerge with any shred of credibility in these two books is Gordon Brown – which isn’t saying much. And again, despite what Blair says, it’s quite clear that the two hate each other. It’s hard to define what Brown’s personal philosophy is, or what his plans are, but I do have a sneaking admiration for man - maybe because our Tony is so quite clearly terrified of the crotchety ole sourpuss.

Title: The Insider – The private diaries of a scandalous decade
Author: Piers Morgan
Publisher: Ebury Press - 2005
ISBN: 0091908493

Title: The Spin Doctor’s Diary – Inside Number 10 with New Labour
Author: Lance Price
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton – 2006
ISBN: 0340898232

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