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On NI, Tory fears of Labour spinsters, and headbands in sport

Posted on 6 February 2010 | 10:02am

I was at a dinner a few weeks ago with Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward, who was distinctly gloomy about ever getting a proper resolution to policing and justice issues, which were always fraught but which finally appear to have been sorted. So congratulations to the two governments and the parties for reaching an agreement which appears to have kept the Northern Ireland peace process well and truly on track.

Peace in Northern Ireland is without doubt one of Tony Blair’s and Bertie Ahern’s greatest achievements, and Gordon Brown and Brian Cowen have shown the same level of commitment and attention to detail required to keep the process moving forward.

Nobody should be in any doubt that there will be difficult moments ahead, but yesterday was another good day for Northern Ireland, and another good day for strong and strategic leadership which focusses on the big issues, knows when to intervene, and knows how to keep going when the going gets tough.

(And if you found yourself drawing a contrast there between Labour and Tory, then is it any wonder?)

** There is a scene in Maya – did I mention I had a novel out? – where her parents complain that neighbours, who think they are being helpful, constantly take them horrible newspaper articles about her. It is much the same when you have a book out, because the book publicity team like everyone in the company – and the author – to know what kind of coverage is being generated.

That is how I knew the ghastly Jan Moir had written a piece yesterday bemoaning the fact that women journalists seemed to fall at my feet, and love the book. Unspoken of course was her belief that I should be saving myself for Paulipoos Duckydacre.

Today it is another downmarket Mail hackette having a popette, in the form of Amanda Platell, whose main contribution to media life was to help Piers Morgan work out how not to do television. He learned the lessons from their not terribly successful programme together, and is now so famous that he has a quote on the cover of Maya. She does a column.

Today’s is largely a rehash of the Duckydacre line on John Terry, but buried in there is the suggestion that I deliberately coincided the launch of my novel with my appearance at the Chilcot Inquiry, to maximise publicity. ‘Disgusting opportunism’, she says. LOL, as we young hip people say.

As even Amanda must know, publication dates for books tend to be set – as this one was – many months in advance, certainly before I knew I was to be at the Chilcot Inquiry on January 12.

But what her comment reveals, much to my satisfaction, is how misguided the Tory right are in imagining how good we Labour spinsters are at our job. Come on, think about it, she is saying I am so brilliant at manipulating the agenda that I fixed the inquiry timetable, my own appearance at it, and my book, all to suit my own ends. Genius!

No wonder the Tories got so spooked by us the whole time. Because prior to playing a small role in the Piers Morgan global domination preparation plan, Amanda was also kind of my opposite number for the 2001 election when she was right-hand bod to William Hague. We spooked her then too, as some of you may remember from a film she made which largely consisted of her having rings run round her during the day, then going home to cry with a cat.

But this little line in The Daily Dacre today should give heart to all who work in Labour’s media machine. The Tories still think we’re far better than they are. And think about this too … under Cameron and Andy Coulson (not out of the woods on phonetapping I hear btw) the Tories have had the easiest media ride of any leader in history, a global economic crisis to exploit, an expenses scandal to exploit, a sense of Labour being in power too long, a dip in support for policy on Iraq and Afghanistan, and yet still they are only inches ahead in the polls.

If they can’t do a decent job with the wind blowing behind them, what are they going to be like when the real pressure comes on? I think the public are beginning to work out the answer.

Off to Burnley v West Ham now. Massive. Doing Andy Marr and Adam Boulton tomorrow. Might get a few mentions of the book in there I guess. Hope Amanda will be watching. And Jan. And all the other girls. And Paulipoos. Mwah mwah.

*** Before I go, I must draw your attention to today’s FT. They kindly offered me the arts diary slot (me being an artist and all) and also kindly made a donation to Leukaemia Research for the pleasure. So kind, so kind, nice paper, nice paper. But what a picture! They have mocked me up in a wetsuit and headband alongside an Elvis impersonator.

I get the Elvis bit, because I mention a Labour fundraiser I am doing next month with Elvis impersonator Mark Wright. I get the wetsuit too, because I mention doing triathlons (and there is a shot of my beautiful racing bike in the background) But what’s with the bloody headband, oh art director of arts diary? I have never worn a headband in my life. They are just so not me. Image rights lawyers are on the case, obviously.

To get the picture in they had to cut one of my little items, so I thought I would include it in here.

‘I also launched a scheme on my website this week,’ it said ‘to sell individually signed copies of The Blair Years, with half of the money going to the Labour Party. It will not exactly dent the Ashcroft squillions enjoyed by the Tories, but every little helps.’

Thanks by the way to the people who have been thanking us for getting the books out quickly. I don’t really do the online shopping thing. In fact I don’t do the shopping thing at all. But I get the impression people are surprised when something arrives quickly and undamaged. Ta for the testimonials. Glad the system is working.

  • Simon Leonard

    Cameron’s taking the whole ‘heir to Blair’ thing very seriously, he’s even got a spin doctor with the same initials.

    Next thing you know he’ll be falling out with his shadow chancellor on policy…..

  • Charlie

    @AC “(And if you found yourself drawing a contrast there between Labour and Tory, then is it any wonder?)

    Even Gordon Brown saw fit to remember that the NI peace process started on John Major’s watch.

  • Carla Potter

    sunday telegraph also suggested you timed novel to coincide with Chilcot inquiry. All confirms right wing are craxy. about you. and just crazy

  • Malcolm Kelly

    Am 125 pages in to Maya. Really gripping and tense. Characters not exactly likeable but fascinating. Media and modern fame analyses funny and serious at same time. Will finish over weekend

  • Jon Wodehouse

    I see the Mail has a story today about Tory PPCs being told to clear all their tweets on Twitter through Conservative Central Office. If they can’t be trusted with tweeting, can they be trusted with governing a country? I think I know the answer to that. I notice AC is mentioned as an example of this kind of control freakery. Apparently, according to the Mail ‘last night critics said the move smacked of the worst excesses of New Labour in the 1990s under spin doctors Alastair Campbell and Peter Mandelson.’ There’s also a sultry pic of AC thrown in for Dacre’s nocturnal pleasure. What a sick joke that paper is.

    Good to see the Paulipoos Dacre Downfall spoof has had over 2,200 views. If whoever made it is reading this, you’re a genius!

  • Alan Quinn

    Ally, as you’re on the Andrew Marr show I hope you have a pop at him for the way he asked GB about being addicted to prescription drugs and then giving Dave an easy ride weeks later.

  • Patrick James

    I like your comment about “how misguided the Tory right are in imagining how good we Labour spinsters are at our job”.

    I think a lot of Cameron’s problems come because the Conservatives have actually got it totally wrong about how Labour came to power. The Conservatives believe their own cynical stuff that Labour did it all by clever advertising and “spin” etc. In fact Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Peter Mandleson and many others had worked for years on changing to nature of the party into one that fitted the current political environment.

    Cameron & Co. think it was all spin etc. and so they think that by just spinning Cameron without any of the work at all on their work at all on the party or policies, that is all that is required.

    This means we now have Cameron as the “new look” unable to talk about policies etc. because all their policies are circa 1979.

  • chaz

    “Unspoken of course was her belief that I should be saving myself for Paulipoos Duckydacre.”
    Halfway through reading your blog Alastair, my other half pops his head around the door to tell me that he’s just watched on TV, Pauline Prescott advertising the serialisation of her book in the ‘Mail’.
    Please, say it ain’t so.