I’ve been through a lot on this Andrew. And I’ve been through a lot of that inquiry… and… Tony Blair, I think, is a totally honourable man.”
These words emotionally stumbled out of Alistair Campbell’s mouth just days after the appearance of Tony Blair at the Chilcot inquiry this week, which started with a shaky and obviously nervous Blair and ended with what some have described as a smug smile creeping across the face of the ex-Prime Minister as he defended his actions in taking Britain into the War in Iraq. Campbell appeared at the same inquiry prior to Blair, defending his friend and ex-boss in the face of what he described as a “vilification” of Mr Blair and all those involved in the choice to enter the war.
Campbell’s defence at the inquiry was emotional and strong, with him arguing that what happened was not an easy choice. Indeed this latest appearance again reiterates the image that Campbell wants to portray in the media. His emotional stance and even being close to tears are the latest techniques that Campbell, as the ex-spin doctor for the Labour Party, has decided to endorse in order to influence the electorate.
Campbell even remarked on the Andrew Marr show on Sunday morning that “the only communication that works now really is where people are being utterly authentic. The public, they hear all this stuff about spin, they know the media spin, the politicians do it and they can see when people are being authentic.” His new move towards “sincere” emotion and authenticity are all aimed at showing the Labour Party – and in particular Blair at the Iraq inquiry – to be honest and trustworthy. In part this is a response to the recent expenses scandal that has rocked the political world and damaged the careers and reputation of many of the most prominent politicians, so far as to create an image of politicians in Westminster that is so tarnished by the expenses scandal that their expenses and claims haunt them.
It has to be appreciated that what Campbell has been through and the grilling that Campbell has endured over the last few weeks about his involvement in the Iraq War has been tremendous. That amount of criticism and questioning is difficult for anyone to manage and for any politician to hold his nerve throughout. But like politicians and honesty, politics and emotion don’t mix. The two are not good bed partners, and only lead to issues, the most obvious being the fact that when a politician you know has little remorse for their actions appears emotional, a little niggling feeling eats away at your insides, questioning whether you think they are telling the truth.
Emotion has reared its head before in politics. The infamous Margaret Thatcher showed a rare moment of weakness as she shed a tear, struggling to hold her nerve as she was pushed out of Downing Street by her own party. The emotion she showed on that night was a sincere moment of pain by a typically strong woman and shows a genuine moment of emotion from a leader who had prided herself on being a strong political force, but the choice to use emotion by Campbell is somewhat different. It can only be described as a tactic, something to influence the voter and make politicians look more positive at a time when the word politics is scarier and dirtier than even the most obscene swear words.
Is emotion the new tool of a politics that needs to reassert itself to be human and show politicians in a less negative light? A way to persuade the world that politicians do feel, they do have emotion and they even cry. Tears may flow but are these tears truly sincere when politics is the topic of choice?