You’ve all heard the story by now. After last week’s rambunctious and targeted Question Time saw the entire panel go after John McDonnell, he escaped to the green room to shout at Alastair Campbell. Headlines bleated about “sources at the BBC” having seen McDonnell calling Campbell a f****** a******. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this almost certainly didn’t happen.
As Private Eye has reported this week there were in fact no “BBC sources in the green room” as the Sun and the International Business Times reported. In fact the only two witnesses seem to believe the exchange went somewhat differently.
Whilst the witnesses confirmed that Campbell had indeed sworn repeatedly at McDonnell, McDonnell had remained silent. This reflects the rest of the night where an increasingly irate Campbell unloaded at an endlessly calm McDonnell
Many people know that the sweary character Malcolm Tucker was based on Campbell’s aggressive “hair-dryer” treatment of those who earned his ire. If anyone should use the words “f****** a******” it is far more likely to be Campbell.
In fact, those familiar with McDonnell have noted his ability to remain silent and taciturn in the face of horrendous abuse. This very thick skin and quiet demeanor would be a stark contrast to the tantruming child the Sun’s report portrayed.
This raises the question of who the sources that the IB Times and the Sun reported from are. Is it possible that PR Guru Campbell, with his long associations with the press and particularly Murdoch spun a series of lies to these papers to discredit a man he claims is “destroying [their] party?”
Given the Blair years infamy for reliance on spin it hardly stretches the imagination.
The other somewhat worrying element of the story is the lack of statement from the BBC. Given that the events supposedly occurred on one of their shows, using their sources, it seems odd that they wouldn’t want to set the record straight.
Of course Campbell himself has a number of connections throughout the media so it is indeed possible that the supposed sources were him calling in favours at the Beeb.
Given his high standards of ethical behaviour during the Leveson inquiry it seems unlikely…