This February 14th, there’s going to be a St Valentine’s Day love-in of unparalleled oddness. For not only is Piers Morgan to interview Gordon Brown on ITV, but the Spinmeister himself Alistair Campbell will be ‘coaching’ Our Greatest Ever Poverty-Lifter on what to say. Or how to lie more convincingly. Or something.
Mr Morgan – who’s entirely apt name anagram is Romping Arse – you may all recall as the man who dumbed down the Mirror, and then get fired for getting his facts wrong on a major ‘army torture’ lead-story. His memoirs The Insider featured a somewhat wayward prediction that Brown would turn out to be ‘one of the great Prime Ministers’. These days Piers interviews only the important people – Katie Price and so forth – and earns a bit of pin-money being the toff-beefcake on a US ‘talent’ show.
Across the table from him on the night will be a man who needs no introduction, but does appear to need a speech-therapist to put into words what he might say. According to his new best friend Lord Meddlesome, he also needs a personality transplant. And according to Peter Watt, he is the man who badgered and briefed against his boss Tony Blair, until even he got fed up and left the stage.
Working at briefing against Gordon at the time was Alistair Campbell, the man infamous for telling Parky on his prime-time chat-show that ‘the best thing about my story on the sex-life of David Mellor was that I made it all up’. Chemical Ali has always had difficulties with the truth/lie thing. It has been alleged that he briefed Sir Jock Stirrup to ‘lay it on a bit’ about how good the Army prep for a full-scale illegal invasion of Iraq was. He also spearheaded the briefings against David Kelly that (one might assume) contributed to his death on the grounds of suicide. He invented ‘Princess of Hearts’ for the Blair national heart-tugging address. And sat in front of the Chilcot panel denying he had sexed up the WMD dossier – although he never denied this (or sued anyone about the stories) at the time.
Anyway, doubtless fresh from coaching Lord Goldsmith in readiness for his Chilcot gumming, Campbell is now to be the man helping Gordon on the skills required for communicating to those who normally follow the adventures of Victoria Beckham, Jordan, Soap stars and The X-Factor. This is a make-or-break session for Gordo, because such Hello readers are the only ones left daft enough to vote for him. And so his close confidante Alistair will be helping the PM to be believably cheesy, but without the ‘telegraphing’ technique Cyclops normally adopts. He wants, if you will, to make him a bit more Gordonzola, and a bit less brownnose.
It’ll be a tough challenge even for Campbell, but if anyone can pull it off, he can. I understand that the spinning top has headed his briefing paper for Gordon ‘Be Sincere, even if you don’t mean it’. However, as yet there doesn’t seem to be anyone on the horizon willing to coach Piers. This presents a major problem, as such a briefing paper for him would be headed ‘Ask an intelligent question, even if you don’t understand it’.
In the absence of any assistance, the mind boggles at what Morgan might ask his hero: does he choose his phones on the basis of durability? How much did the new teeth cost? Would he ever go on I’m a Celebrity? Did he frame the knife he used on Tony?
Much as I would’ve loved to head this piece ‘New Labour Sleaze-bags in three-in-bed romp’, it would be both inaccurate and unkind. What we will in fact have is two blokes without a moral compass between them, looking to put the best gloss on a bloke who has a moral compass but never uses it. I only hope it’s going to be aired after the 9pm watershed, because we don’t want any young children being traumatised by the sight of this Odd Couple. Health & Safety would have a fit.