ALASTAIR CAMPBELL: …- you do develop a very, very thick skin. I have a very, very thick skin. I frankly have reached the point where I genuinely don’t care what the papers say about me at all. I’ve never sued a newspaper. I can always answer back, particularly now in the blogosphere and Twitter and all that stuff, but they know they can sort of get at you through your family.
It’s almost comical now when I read it, but it wasn’t comical at the time. As I say, it’s the only time I managed to get an immediate instant apology from the Daily Mail was when they wrote a story about the impact that my father’s death had had on me, and the reason it was so easy was because of course my father was alive at the time.
This is one time where Mr Dacre, when I phoned him up, sort of admitted he didn’t have a leg to stand on and I’m glad to say that we got some money and we managed to build new school gates for my kids’ school and new playground equipment that Mr Dacre would be pleased to know is still being used by the children, albeit not today, but that is just one example. To be fair, they apologised.
MR JAY: Yes.
ALASTAIR CAMPBELL: Again, it’s interesting the background to that because what had happened there was that somebody, obviously with not much better to do with his time, decided to write a book about me while I was in Downing Street, and the Mail thought they were going to serialise it, but the guy worked for the Daily Express so the Express said, “No, you have to serialise it here”.
So Paul Dacre was miffed at this, that he went back to the Express, so he put together a team of people to pretend to write a book which they put together in a few days, so it was a serialisation of a book which didn’t exist which on day one talked about the impact of my father’s death.
Like I say, if you get a very thick skin, as I’ve got, it sort of doesn’t matter, but your kind of parents and your brothers and nephews and nieces, this is not their world so that can actually have quite a profound impact.
ALASTAIR CAMPBELL: …the distinction has completely vanished, that somebody who through no fault of their own becomes newsworthy now can be subject to exactly the same sort of inhumane treatment as — the reason I described Britney Spears is because it was perfectly obvious at the time that she was deeply disturbed and they were live on television, these shots of convoys of cars, motorbikes, following her to hospital. You just think: does nobody sort of stand back and say, “Should we be doing this?” and I don’t think they do. I think some people do. In fact, I quote one photographer who resigned from one of the main celebrity agencies, but you had Richard Peppiatt here yesterday. There aren’t that many who resign over what they consider to be wrong or inhumane activity.
MR JAY: The photographer who resigned, you say, admitted that the hounding of Britney Spears had gone beyond anything his conscience would allow. Are you paraphrasing what he said or was it more or less exactly that?
ALASTAIR CAMPBELL: I think I was paraphrasing from something that he wrote at the time.
MR JAY: In terms of direct evidence you can give, at the bottom of this page, 21069, you refer to a dinner you attended last year and you were introduced to the editor of Heat magazine. Can you tell us a little bit about that encounter?
ALASTAIR CAMPBELL: It was perfectly friendly and amicable. He was a very charming sort of bloke and I was just doing my usual — some of the things I’ve been saying to you and I’ve said in my statement about my assessment of the impact of the celebrity culture on the rest of the media and on what Britain was becoming as a culture, and he said, “Well, we perform a very useful role. What would you rather have, magazines like ours or public executions?”
I think that is the attitude. You know, we allow the people — we allow the public to sort of hate or like these people, celebrities, who want to be in the magazines — some of them do, some of them don’t.
Again, there’s no real distinction between them. But I think that is a kind of fairly — you saw from Paul McMullan yesterday, they think it performs a huge Public service.