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Blog as rebuttal and media monitoring

Posted on 7 September 2013 | 9:09am

I was probably being a little churlish last night, on seeing the Guardian headline on my interview with Decca Aitkenhead – ‘you have to have at least the threat of military action’ – and tweeting that it had probably been written before the interview was filed.

As some of you quickly took to twitter to tell me, she did say she ‘loved the book’ we were discussing, my new novel, My Name Is …, and they gave plenty space to what it was about, and her views that I was now a ‘proper novelist’, ahem, and that my writing as a woman was particularly ‘compelling.’

So there you are – using my blog to rebut my own rebuttal (though I still think the headline writer was having a lazy day). In one of the many unreported parts of our chat, we discussed blogging, Decca having noticed I was doing less of it – true – and me saying that when I was doing it every day it was starting to feel like a chore and so I tended now to pick and choose. And of course rebuttal is one of the many good things this whole self-publishing thing can allow, whether on twitter, Facebook or here.

Rebuttal 2: Andy McSmith in the Independent – no criticism – has picked up on something I was quoted as saying in the Nottingham Post, in an interview I did about my talk at the Nottingham Playhouse tonight.

Here is the quote … ‘The huge difference is that we’re talking about chemical weapons, rather than weapons of mass destruction. When they weren’t there, some people suspected they had gone across the border into Syria. Now there is no doubt the chemical weapons are in Syria and have been used.’ And here is Andy’s headline: ‘Saddam Hussein bequeath arms to Assad? The idea is nonsense, as Alastair Campbell knows’

The first part of the quote actually doesn’t make sense. What I described as the huge difference between Iraq and Syria was that in the current situation there is no question that he has and has used WMD. I did make the point about people at the time saying weapons we had known to be there may have gone over the border, but certainly did not say Saddam had given them to Assad. And on the last part of the quote, the ‘the’ before ‘chemical weapons’ does not refer to Iraqi WMD’ but to those which were used recently in Syria.

— I know that Andy, a former colleague, will like many of us have been saddened by the death of the wonderful Geoffrey Goodman, who was a great journalist but more than that a lovely lovely man. Both the Mirror, our old paper, and The Guardian, from ex editor Mike Molloy, have published excellent obituaries which I would like to share here and here.

I would merely like to add to these terrific accounts of his life the remarkable personal kindness he showed to me and members of my family at various times, not least his help to my son Rory when he was studying politics, and would go to Geoffrey’s house to pick his brains and his books and his intimate knowledge of Labour and British history.

  • Michele

    Re your point about Andy McSmith I know, and have posted about it here a couple of times before, that a UN inspector (am pretty sure it was Hans Blix), stated on R4 Today in an 8.10ish inverview in Ap/May 2003 that his team believed Saddam had passed Iraq’s chemical weapons across the border to Syria ‘for storage’.

    I’ve mentioned it a couple of times here as the interview included certain key words and suggestions that were unusual, like code.

    The gist was that Iraq definitely still owned chemical weapons but Saddam did not want to be seen either by his unfortunate citizens or internationally to be capitulating by offering their location up to the inspectors.

    Interviewee suggested that Saddam was therefore playing something like a game of POKER, leaving his people afraid of him (and what he might use AGAIN being the bluff) while, all along, extant weapons were being STORED in Syria and LYING by claiming they’d never existed (we’ve since found proof of those that had been used in an earlier decade, hidden inside bodies in the mass grave at Halabja).

    I’ve been massively jaded by the fact that not only has R4’s Today not mentioned this interview during the past couple of years (if they’d highlighed and explained it and I missed it I’m sure it would have had coverage elsewhere) but neither has the rest of the media till recent events in Syria itself.

    Today is actually still milking other events of the time and R4 as a whole was doing so with the recent ‘Reunion’.

    I’m glad Hans Blix seems to be back on the scene, out of retirement temporarily ……?


    As an aside, a truly sick-making interviewee from the same period in ’03 (anti-hero of the edition of Reunion), has just been appointed by Boris Johnson to a role in the GLA (gratitude for his lies about Ken Livingston that lifted BJ back in power?).

  • Ehtch

    Blog when you want to Alastair, that is what it is all about. Do whenever you feel as when you want it, as any pastime, like sport.

    I pop in here about three times a week to see what is going on, but there is absolutely no need for you yourself to be religious about your blog – church services are/were only on Sunday after all, in a slightly different way, albeit.

    Chill out, go for a walk, get some fresh air, no need to blog for a few good days, is how I see it.

    But as for twitter, how do you do that nagging at you constantly? Now that would do my nut right in – I don’t twitter at all, not my scene, oh no. But as for youtube… speak to this retired pop star often due to youtube – think she has become my surrogate mother to her, reciprocated, I love her,

  • Ehtch

    By the way Alastair, think I have mentioned my new mate/girlfriend Kris living in Austin Texas – anyway, she has been going through problems with herself, non-drink though, depressions and bipolar things, but heard from her last night Ali, and she is doing well, and has two computer use hours a day now. She had to check herself in, since she was all over the place within mind, and I think I have helped her. and the local mental health local sheriff assessor too when she went to the local hospital. As it always is, helped her in strange ways, as it always is.

    Only known her two months. Her problems are family background problems, with mental sensitivity natural, which really started going bananas within herself when her father died a couple of years ago, who she got on well with. Kris is the eldest of four children, but as for her mother!, the most polite way I could put it she is like an SS female guard in a concentration camp with what Kris told me, a nightmare of a mother, and Kris as the eldest took the brunt, and then it continued throughout her adult life, until last Xmas, when she really went to pieces.

    But I think I helped her to find strength to find help. Even more so, since I am single, as is she, more stuff will be on the cards.

    Just told her in her reply, if you have to take medication for the rest of your life, so be it, I don’t mind at all. But I sense she will get down to when she needs it, when the ghosts revisit her with the time trials of days we have all.

    Basically what I am saying Alastair, for the first time in my life, I might be getting married. The hospital staff who look after her she tells me are stunned at rate of how she is repairing herself. Focus see, she has an honest focus in her life. Now who could that be… : )

    Know it is not a healthy way to start a relationship, but if nothing comes from it, since I do feel as if I am taking advantage of a vulnerable, and she might come to say that, who knows, but I think we will stay friends at least. Incredible lady – use to work as a top manager for Dell computers in Austin, earning stacks. We’ll see what happens.

    Best Alastair, will keep you up with developments,


    PS. Here is Kris,

  • Ehtch

    Something maybe off the topic, but for feeling of this blog subject, since Irish, I feel this girl is in your book, do like their old tunes, have you seen this Alastair, but I suspect probably not – I watch it every now and again, Meredydd Evans on about folk music, which is true life about, old songs and sung and played in evenings with candle light then, before roaring fires,

    Hope it impresses – Meredydd himself is a fascinating man, still alive and well, too, last I have heard.