Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Tony Blair’s former spin doctor Alastair Campbell breaks down during Iraq interview

'I don't think people are interested in the truth anymore'

Former prime minister Tony Blair did not mislead Parliament in the run-up to war, Alastair Campbell told the Iraq Inquiry
Alastair Campbell

Tony Blair’s former spin doctor Alastair Campbell was embroiled in another row with the BBC last night after breaking down on television as he answered questions about the Iraq war.

Blair's former Downing Street communications director accused the BBC presenter Andrew Marr of pursuing an “agenda” when he pressed him over whether the former Prime Minister misled Parliament over Iraq's weapons before the 2003 invasion.

Mr Campbell, who was assured during a five-hour grilling by the Iraq Inquiry last month, became emotional during his appearance on The Andrew Marr Show and appeared to struggle for breath as he did not speak for several seconds.

As the interview continued with a string of pauses Campbell said: "Forgive me for this...I've...I've been through a lot of this, Andrew. And I've been through a lot of that inquiry... and, er... Tony Blair, I think is a totally honourable man.”

Mr Campbell added that people are no longer interested in the truth.

“I don't think people are interested in the truth anymore," said Mr Campbell.

"600,000 people died after the war," Marr responded.

"And you can't...you can't prove those," said Campbell.

He went on the programme to promote his new novel, Maya, but admitted later that Marr had upset him by referring to it as his “new work of fiction” — which he took as a barbed reference to the controversial dossier on Saddam Hussein's weapons published in September 2002. The claim by a BBC reporter that the dossier had been “sexed up” eventually led to the Hutton Inquiry.

Later Mr Campbell told Sky News: “I did get quite upset with Andrew [Marr] this morning. I feel sometimes we are treated in this media bubble; like somehow you are devoid of humanity — you don't really have feelings, you don't really care about things.”

Writing on his blog, he Campbell said: “I let my mind race for a while, controlled the emotions surging around, then carried on.”

William Hague, the shadow Foreign Secretary, who was also interviewed on the programme, said: “We are all upset by what happened in Iraq. I am very upset that it seems our soldiers were often sent into action without the necessary equipment because of poor political decision-making, that there was no plan for the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq.”

Other politicians who wept their way into the headlines:

Margaret Thatcher — The ‘Iron Lady’ delivered a choked-up farewell speech and tears were visible in her eyes on the day she left Downing Street in November 1990.

Bill Clinton — The former US president welled up at the drop of a hat. Video footage abounds of him laughing and joking as he walked to the funeral of fellow politician Ron Brown, only to turn on the emotion once he realised cameras were present.

John Hume — The former SDLP leader broke down and eventually had to be taken to hospital following his attendance at the funeral of one of the Shankill bomb victims — where he was congratulated for his peace efforts by the dead man’s daughter.

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