The other night I saw Dinner with Portillo -a show whose conceit of filming members of the chattering classes eating lukewarm food and regurgitating received opinions I can assert with confidence would never occur to any commissioning editor from any other country on the planet. Unaware of the dangers of self-parody, the guests pontificated in between mouthfuls on the virtues and vices of political diaries. Julia Hartley Brewer of the Express declared that Alastair Campbell’s were dreadful. He was a useless journalist who could barely put pen to paper she said: a ranter not a writer. The flattering implication left hanging in the air was that she could deliver her stern verdict because she was a good journalist who could write.
“Well, we’ll be the judge of that, Julia,” I thought,” and then turned to Campbell’s blog to read a discussion about whether Paul Dacre, Quentin Letts and Peter Oborne of the Daily Mail have been pushed by their unrequited passion for him into unreasoning hatred.
Whether Campbell’s astonishing allegation is true or not I am in no position to say. The piece is, however, very well written.
As those of you who follow me on Twitter and Facebook will know, on Wednesday I had a call from a behavioural psychologist, to tell me he had come to the conclusion that Obergruppenfuehrer Paul Dacre is secretly in love with me.
My tweet on this led to a few complaints about the Nazi terminology, one or two saying it was unfair on Dacre, more suggesting that it was unfair on the Nazis, which even I thought was just a bit ott. Just a bit.
So as a compromise position, I will for this much gentler, touchier-feelier blog make him a mere Kommandant of Die Mail (those last two words have a ring to them).
The psychologist, who was terribly serious by the way, felt it was highly likely that I figure in homoerotic fantasies which fill Dacre with terrible shame and guilt. There can be no other explanation, he said, for the scale of hatred expressed in his coverage of me over many years, which had another mini-Nagasaki explosion when I gave evidence to the Iraq inquiry on Tuesday.
I hardly knew what to say about my psychologist friend’s call, but as I tweeted, I did feel a rare if passing moment of sympathy for this most hideous man. Poor poor Obergruppenfuehrer, I said (this was pre-Kommandant phase).
It¹s flattering to have people imagine that I might be appreciated sexually, particularly as I go on down the back nine of life. But just as I don¹t do God, I don¹t do male. And I certainly don¹t do Mail scum. So, Paul Dacre, whatever is going on inside that troubled head as you toss and turn alongside your poor wife sleeping gently besides you, I am sorry, it is time for me to be frank with you – it can never be.
Occasionally my path crosses with apologetic Mail hacks (they usually quote the ‘only obeying orders’ Nuremberg defence for the stuff they write) who want to tell me chapter and verse about Dacre¹s regime and his bouts of obsession with me. You can probably guess the sort of thing, but it must be said he seems to talk about me a lot, given I left Downing Street more than six years ago. .
It was a well-known Mail columnist who first told me he thought Dacre harboured a furtive passion for me, and because it is not returned, and he can never admit it, he must lash out. He compared it to ‘the jealousy of the lonely public school fag who dreams of silent visits to the dorm, realises he can never catch the eye of the prefect, and becomes first lovingly bitter, then bitterly enraged, then out for vengeance. Hell hath no fury like a fag scorned, apparently.
If you look at the content of Die Mail (part of my job when I worked for TB, but it¹s not allowed in the house now, in common wiith dogshit) you can see Dacre¹s inner psyche screaming out from page after page. Just as good football teams reflect the character of the man at the top, so do evil newspapers. I¹ve always imagined all the rage and angst and the scratching and the boils on his back must be because of some deep discontent within.
But could it be, no, surely not, that it is all about confused feelings of sexuality? And about me? Gott im Himmel!!
There¹s also that old saying about birds of a feather flocking together. I¹m not saying that everyone at Die Mail is secretly in love with me. But look at the man I described on Tuesday as the faux posh tosser, Peter Oborne, who was drivelling away outside the QE2 in a vest and an old jacket. Also on the payroll of Die Mail, he was ostensibly there to cover the inquiry, but my psychologist friend wondered whether he was not there just to catch a glimpse of me. He was dressed for play, not work.
This is the Oborne who in earlier life wrote a book about me, in which many Mills and Boon flashes were shown – he described me as ‘a tall, commanding, well-built man, ruggedly good-looking.¹ Also ‘he possessed that sexual confidence that some men have who know how to please women. He was very good-looking in a dangerous sort of way.¹ Well, well, well, we wonder, dangerous to whom? Him? Dacre? The queer-looking Quentin Quetts who had me (not in that way) fairly high up the list in his book on the people who ‘buggered up Britain?’ Interesting choice of word Quents. Something on your mind?
When Oborne was writing his soft porn about me, he was on the Express, but tried to flog his book to Die Mail, a move the Express blocked, saying he had to serialise it in his own paper. This drove the Kommandant into boil-erupting, shoulder-scratching rage. He ordered a team of hacks to put together a ‘book’ (it never got published because it didn’t really exist) so they could run a spoiler – ‘the real Alastair Campbell’ story.
Day One included the revelation that the transforming event of my life was the death of my father in an accident when I was a child. This came as news to my Dad, then alive and well and living in retirement. Banged to rights as they say. Apology next day, and a nice cheque with which we bought new gates and playground equipment for the kids’ primary school. (The only thing Dacre has ever done for State schools by the way. He chose Eton for his own kids - where else for the voice of middle England he claims to represent?)
I caught sight of Die Mail¹s front page on Wednesday in the newsagent and when I saw the splash headline -‘Shameless unrepentant and still lying,’ I assumed they were running an advert for themselves. It turned out to be a missive to me from my repressed secret admirer. Paulipoos my poppet, I know you love me. Scream it more gently and I might listen.
So, if I may adopt that well-known question mark journalism so beloved by Dacre and his many minions – could he be hiding something? Is there a guilty secret that only he knows about?
One that he dare not tell even Oborne, his fellow erotically charged obsessive who broods about the ‘dangerous’ attraction he sees in me?
Why does Dacre never show his face in public? Does he fear there are people out there who might recognise him, and what they might say about what they know?
And if the guilty secret were secret no more, does Dacre perhaps fear the kind of condemnation he metes out to others? How can we know when the man is so secretive about his own life whilst being so prurient and inquisitive about the lives of others?
I’m sure we all remember the recent post-death character assassination of Stephen Gately by Die Mail¹s Jan Moir.
As I said at the time, nothing goes in that paper without Dacre’s support and say so. If there is any homophobia in there, it is his. And who knows where it comes from? But if I have added to his derangement, I think I should just add this to my list of public service achievements, whilst simultaneously (with Mind Champion of the Year hat on), telling him if he needs help and counselling, thanks to Labour there is more of it now available.
In my new novel (no, you’re right, there is nowhere I can’t plug it with only two weeks to go) movie star Maya’s agent talks about ‘the Harold Shipman treatment’ being meted out to a member of the public who dared to accuse Maya of attacking him.
I didn’t see Die Mail beyond the headline, but I gather it was in that mould. Piers Morgan sent me a text suggesting Idi Amin came off lightly by comparison. (He has given me the front cover endorsement for the novel by the way – Piers, that is, not Idi Amin).
People ask why I don’t get angry about Die Mail’s coverage. Partly because it is beyond parody. But mainly because now I realise that, to quote Oscar Wilde (oh how Dacre would have relished covering him in his pomp) it is all just a manifestation of the love that dare not speak its name. I can come to terms with this. But can Paulipoos? I think we should be told.