Jon Snow was anchoring Channel 4 News and five minutes into his programme, in strode the Prime Minister's communications manager and simply took over. I saw this live and can't forget it - I can give you a Youtube recording (below) and Channel 4's own clip, but none of these shows him striding in masterfully, in seeming rage and indignation; nor the grateful, fraternal handshake Snow gave him at the conclusion of the interview. That was the moment when I thought, "They're all in it together."
Yes, questions were asked - but not ones that Campbell couldn't have been expected to prepare for. What really mattered was the man's exhibition of raw power, instantly subverting a national news schedule to serve his own agenda of red-faced, blustering self-justification, drilling the messages into the newsman's desk with his long and bony finger, interrupting Snow with a raised palm as the latter (or a Paxman) might do to a lesser interviewee. And then - away into the night goes The Shadow! What a man!
Channel 4 may have congratulated themselves on a coup - look at the excitement behind the scenes! - but to me, as an appalled viewer, the coup wasn't theirs. If Snow had ordered him out of the studio immediately (oh Lord, if only!), I could have believed in journalistic independence; as it was, he surrendered the dance floor and let Campbell do Night Fever all over it.
According to the Guardian article the next day, Channel 4 had actually asked Campbell for an interview and been refused 15 minutes before transmission. So did Blair's enforcer change his mind, or had he wrong-footed the programme-makers in order to make an extra-dramatic, swishy entrance?
And a decade later, we're still waiting to find out the whole, the real, truth about the events leading to the tragedy we helped foment in Iraq.
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