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Sunday, January 26, 2014

27 June 2003

At the height of the row between the BBC and Downing Street over the "sexed-up" briefing that served as a pretext for UK involvement in the invasion of Iraq, there was an incident which made me feel as though the scales had fallen from my eyes.

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?

35Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning:
36Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping.

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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2 comments:

Paddington said...

Here, the convervatives as still trying to pretend that Iraq either didn't happen, or was a success.

A K Haart said...

The power is something they hide quite well - both who has it and how deep it goes.