‘Great Man’ theory of history comes to mind

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland  - 29th October 2013 -''Journalist and political analyst Alastair Campbell at the Mac for his book launch.''Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 29th October 2013 -''Journalist and political analyst Alastair Campbell at the Mac for his book launch.''Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Did anybody see Alastair Campbell on Newsnight giving out about the Daily Mail? Did you fall off your chair?

The Daily Mail deserves all it gets. But Campbell as a critic of somebody else’s journalism? Steady on.

He was at it again last week on Radio Ulster and RTE, plugging his diary account of the great days when he and Tony Blair and a handful of other wholly admirable leaders defied all the odds to bring peace to our troubled land.

Nothing to do with the fact that the plain people of the North were making it increasingly clear that they wanted the violence to stop.

The mass of the people scarcely figure in Campbell’s narrative.

This is what’s known as the “Great Man” theory of history, scorned throughout his life by the socialist historian Ralph Miliband, father of Ed, the man said by the Mail to have “hated Britain” and defended on Newsnight by Campbell.

Count the number of layers of irony in that.

Campbell’s credentials as a truth-teller were eloquently illustrated in January 2010, when, testifying before the Chilcot Inquiry into the decision to invade Iraq, he defended the “dodgy dossier” he had helped to write.

The dossier hadn’t intended to make the case for war, he swore, but merely to highlight Blair’s frustration at the time.

This makes no sense. More importantly, the head of information at the Defence Intelligence Agency, General Michael Laurie, intervened immediately and emailed the Inquiry: “Alastair Campbell said to the inquiry that the purpose of the dossier was not ‘to make a case for war’.

“I had no doubt at that time this was exactly its purpose and these very words were used.”

Campbell also took “credit” at the Inquiry for the entirely baseless story that Saddam had the means to bomb British targets at 45 minutes notice. This was a key moment in persuading the British people to back the invasion.

Laurie flatly denied this too.

The intelligence information delivered to Blair had been “beefed up” in Downing Street, he said during his own evidence.

Asked whether the Blair/Campbell documents had given the public “a false picture” of the threat to Britain posed by Saddam, Laurie replied, “Yes, yes, yes.”

Why does this matter years later?

Because the sectarianism, the hatred, the cruelty and division dredged to the surface by the invasion continues to rage.

More than a thousand people a month have been being killed in Iraq this year, often in the most dreadful of circumstances. Millions have been displaced. The country is destroyed.

Now one of the architects of this evil swans around the world preening himself as a man of peace.