Dude Swheatie of Kwug reportingThe newspapers are today focussed on fallout from the Chilcot Inquiry regarding how Britain was led into the Iraq War by Tony Blair as British Prime Minister in 2003 (Newspaper headlines: Iraq War Report and Blair Fallout — BBC News).(1) Alastair Campbell was Tony Blair's 'spin doctor' at the time, and what I can reveal here from personal experience, reveals something of the 'spin doctoring' involved and my 'expert witness' knowledge of how much the Prime Minister's Press Officer's account deviated from fact.
I have already written about the facts of my 29 January 2001 encounter with Alastair Campbell and its Mail on Sunday 23 February 2003 aftermath written by Ross Slater. See my comments regarding a Martin Francis' Wembley Matters blog post from 11 August 2015 Insults, threats and Intimidation no way to run a leadership contest(2)
Here I will refer specifically to important detail that I saw of what Alastair Campbell had written in the Spectator that the Mail on Sunday reporter omitted but is now obviously relevant to AC's sabre or war drum rattling toward the invasion of Iraq. The reporter had shown me what Campbell had written in the Spectator, and though I never retained a copy of that, I can recall basically what I read there, with a focus on context.
Basically, Campbell had prefaced his fanciful story of rescuing me from a vicious mugging, by stating that demonstrators near his home had recently shouted across the street at him, "Murderer!" for his collusion in gearing Britain for a war stance against Iraq and sending in British troops and military hardware to invade another country. And he commented something like, "It just goes to show that you cannot please all the people all of the time," before launching into his misreporting of how he had encountered me, which was
actually after I had walked away relatively unharmed apart from a puffed lip:
"I was running in the dark round the track on Hampstead heath. nearby a group of youths set about an innocent passer-by and beat him up badly.
"Call me stupid but I had no idea that you could ring 999 on a mobile, so I decided, rashly to intervene. I raced across, shouting out loudly in different accents.
"To my amazement and relief, the youths scarpered, leaving a bleeding, groaning, badly injured man. I offered to take him to the hospital or the police station, but he asked instead that I walked (sic) with him to a nearby church where he was meeting friends.
"Once there, I said that if he decided to call the police, he could call be as a witness, and I scribbled down my name and number. He looked at the piece of paper, then looked at me and said: "Are you Alastair Campbell? I ****ing hate you." It turned out that he was a Liberal Democrat activist — never the most grateful of sorts."(3)
What I had actually said to the man who said, "You've probably heard of me; I'm the Prime Minister's Press Secretary," was not rude or insulting bearing in mind the fact that I was so poor that I had walked miles lost in the rain trying to find my way back from East London without sufficient bus fare. (I was 'knackered' when I entered Parliament Hill Fields that night, and already late for the meeting I had intended to attend.) I told him that that evening's muggers had taken less from me than successive governments in terms of the support I required as a disabled jobseeker.
Regarding my then-party-political-CV was that I was ex-Labour, ex-Ecology Party, and ex-Lib Dem. Of course, in smearing me as "a [foul-mouthed] Liberal Democrat — never the most grateful of sorts" he was attacking a party that opposed the Bush-Blair invasion plans.
And whereas I had told the Mail on Sunday that I was very long-term job seeker who had applied to volunteer at teaching computing skills to disabled people, my being served up to MoS readers as, "Mr Wheatley, 49, who trains disabled people in computer skills," presumably made me more of a 'credible witness' than, "Mr Wheatley, 49, a very long-term disabled jobseeker."
Mail on Sunday article, '"He is hallucinating," says man Campbell "saved"' — not online