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Hate the Mail, love Obama

Posted on 10 May 2009 | 10:05am

So I wake to a lovely sunny day, remember that Fiona is away, reflect warmly on yesterday’s win, delete the latest rash of radio and TV messages asking me to do an interview on MPs expenses, then wonder what to blog about before I go out on the bike.

I could resurrect, for one day only, the Mail Monitor (why oh why did TB allow one or two of his ministers to persuade him we should halt the daily rebuttal of the Dacre Lie Machine?) to rebut the Mail on Scumday story that I had been the one who persuded GB to announce his expenses reforms on YouTube.

In denying it, I am not criticising the Prime Minister for using YouTube. On the contrary, I think all ministers and MPs should be using new media more and ignoring the old media’s complaints about them doing so, and have said so to GB in the past. I am simply pointing out that the story, based on the usual anonymous so-called sources, is not true.Not that that will worry them. They are used to publishing things that are not true, which is why the Mail Monitor, which a member of my political team in Downing Street used to put together, would sometimes run to several pages. 

Let me assure fellow Mail-haters that I have not purchased the paper to discover that I am in it. It’s sweet, really, how they still like to have me in there. No, I was sent a link by a member of the Number 10 team late last night, just to be aware that the story had been printed, and that they knew it was nonsense.

But it has the feel of one of those stories most people will just skim over anyway, so certainly not worth a whole blog, I don’t think. Although you might be interested in a new game I play whenever I use taxis. If the driver has the Mail, I say ‘you can have me in the cab, or you can have that rag, but not both.’ It’s amazing how many are happy to let you bin it.

So then I’m thinking, Fiona is at the Daphne du Maurier book festival in Cornwall, promoting her book, and no doubt talking about how useless I am around the house, which means I have to take the dog for a walk before getting out on the bike, and I would quite like to get back for the Manchester derby, and I have to get my head round the briefing for an event I am doing for MIND tomorrow, and write a speech I am delivering in French this week, so I don’t want to take too much time on this blog, so what else then?

At which point, up pops a link on my Facebook wall, sent by Alina in Washington, something of a regular here, urging me to take a look at President Obama’s speech to the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner yesterday.

I will be honest – I read very few of the links people send me. Life is too short and there are too many links in the world. But this had the look of something worth seeing. It is. 

Anyone who saw The Speaker on BBC 2 will know how much I admire Obama’s oratorical skills. What his speech to the White House media dinner shows is that he has touches of comic genius too. It was 20 minutes well-spent.

Even accepting that he may have some terrific speechwriters, and an army of gasgters and line-writers willing to offer help for an event like that, the feel  is of a man totally at ease, happy to send up himself, his family, his colleagues, the press.

I won’t spoil it for you, but among my favourites was the reference to how well he was getting on with Hillary Clinton, as seen by the huge kiss she gave him when she came back from Mexico, as she suggested he really ought to make a visit there.

He had to do the usual stuff about how important the press corps was to US democracy, but even when he was being serious he could not resist a touch of humour, referring to their pursuit of ‘an approximation of the truth.’

He knows that plenty of them consider him to be a little aloof and arrogant, and he plays to it brilliantly, saying he intends at some point to ‘consider losing my cool’, then going through his successes of the first 100 days, a laugh in every one of them, before promising that his next 100 days will be so successful that he will complete them in 72 days, and rest on the 73rd.

If you had to choose between spending twenty minutes watching it, or twenty minutes reading a paper this morning, I say Go Obama.

Now the tricky bit. I am not good at links. Pathetic I know but I don’t know how to cut and paste from Facebook page to  blog. What I do know is that it is on YouTube and in the top right of the screen it says C-Span and down in the left corner of the screen it says

But no doubt Alina will be on soon saying in more detail how people can watch  it. I promise you it is worth it.

Maybe by the end of the day I will have a proper link to it on here. Then again I may not. Now to the dog, then the bike. Have a nice day, as I really can imagine Obama saying, and meaning it. 

STOP PRESS – link now embedded in first reference to the event above. And Brian Moylan has written links in comments section, while Tim Fallon has done same on Facebook. Thanks to both.

  • Simon Leonard

    Brilliant, especially the part about the Republican Party not qualifying for a bailout and Rush Limbaugh as a troubled asset.

    Nothing beats Stephen Colbert in 2006 though –

  • James Williams

    Just wondering if you heard about Edinburgh University Student’s Union President who attempted to ban the Daily Mail from their campus a few weeks ago?

    It didn’t get approved by their student council so wasn’t enacted but it remains an interesting incident.

  • Ronnie Mason

    Amazing – he somehow manages to look like a president and a comedian at the same time. The last guy just looked like a cartoon

  • Alison

    Oh for that light touch in our politics. At least Blair had it, even if he did not quite have the comic timing Obama does.

  • Brian Moylan
  • Em

    A few weeks ago, you said you rarely read comments on the blog and now you admit to doing the same with FB? Fair enough though I think you might have missed the entire point of this whole new media thing. LOL!

    Enjoy the cycling!

  • Rita Heston

    He (Obama)speaks with an authentic voice which is sadly lacking in politics as in many other spheres! We may not always recognise a lie- but the truth has a ring to it. Most of us know it when we hear it-and we hear it loud and clear from Obama-the humour (self-deprecating or otherwise) is a bonus! Thanks for the link!Rita 🙂 If the man from the Manse could project some of that integrity then much could be forgiven. My party belongs on the side of the angels and right now….well where the hell are we?

  • AC

    Em .. I don’t think I have ever said I don’t read comments, have I? I may not reply to them all, but I do try to read them.

  • Mike Price

    I claim my five pounds – I just saw you cycling up the steep hill just past Highgate Cemetery. I was impressed you were up there, if not by the speed you were doing by the top! I’m the one who was double parked and you gave me a dirty look. Love the blog. Hope you keep it up

  • gary Enefer

    It may not be wise to mention it’s a lovely day and Fiona’s away in the same sentence – or are you being a comedian?!

  • Em

    I thought that’s what you said in your blog from 16th April 2009. Guess I got the wrong end of the stick. Thanks for clarifying.

  • J Mark Fillingham

    Just read your novel “All in the Mind”….I bought it because you wrote it and I am glad that I did….its not the sort of novel that I normally read….I feel better for having done so…Thank You

  • Alan Quinn

    The derby was a bit poor Ally, I don’t think you missed much. A win against the Pie Eaters on Wednesday and that could well be SAF’s second three on the bounce championship success and United draw level with the scousers on 18 league titles each. Well done to Burnley too yesterday.

  • MS

    You certainly know all about lie machines having operated one in your time in Downing Sreet – with specific reference to the reasons for going to war in Iraq.

    You and your colleagues also drove David Kelly to suicide with no apparent regret or remorse.

    You make the current set of politicians, for all their expense fiddles, look positively saintly

  • paul canning

    Obama was OK at WH correspondents dinner but Wanda Sykes just killed. Such a funny lady

    “Palin, she’s not here tonight, she pulled out at the last minute. Somebody should tell her, that’s not really how you practice abstinence.”

  • gary Enefer

    Jane A-left message for you on AC’s expenses page – first contribution after kia-please check with Marion re messaging.

    you are missed.

  • Alina Palimaru

    I’m glad people enjoyed the speech! I was out running all morning. By the time I got online all links had been sorted out.

    I also liked the joke on Rahm Emmanuel, the President’s Chief of Staff. In fact, Alastair, in the early days of the administration several papers here in the U.S. did profiles on him and a few compared him to you! It was mostly in terms of aggressive defence of the boss and political acumen, but also regarding curses. 🙂 Hence, the ‘mother’ joke.

  • MH

    If you put “Alaster Campbell liar” into Google you get about 11,000 hits – and this guy acuses the Daily Mail of lying!!!

  • Alina Palimaru

    Gee MH and you know for a fact that all those Google entries are legitimate, accurate and based on facts… Puh-lease!!

  • Em

    I entered +MH +liar and got 185000 results.

    Alaster? If I got a pound every time I’ve seen AC’s name butchered here and on FB, I’d be off to an exotic destination right now.

  • Gary Enefer

    If you put MH Liar into google you get 175000 hits!

  • Ryan Ross


    1- Highlight that which you wish to copy by left clicking just after the point the piece of texts finishes, and drag the mouse while holding the left click button to the start of the text you want to copy.

    2- Let go of the left click.

    3- Press right click over the text and select ‘copy’.

    4- Go to the point you wish to paste the text, right click and press ‘paste’.

    Alternatively, follow step 1 and hold Ctrl then press C to copy and hold Ctrl and press V to paste.


  • Ryan Ross

    PS: Could you get a favicon put on your website?
    It’s that little picture that appears on your bookmark bar when you save a website to your bookmarks, typically only 76 x 76 pixels.
    It makes things much easier when seeking out your website, currently yours appears as a bland sheet.
    Bookmark the’ll see a little icon appear along side the bookmark.

    Get the tech guys on it, pretty easy stuff =]