Gerri Peev: Spin doctor dances on head of a hand grenade

ALASTAIR Campbell is loyal until the end. And that may be coming sooner than ever thanks to his evidence to the Iraq inquiry.

The former spin doctor who, during his time at Number 10 made demands of the press that would make Vladimir Putin flinch, made clear where his allegiance lay yesterday by promptly dropping Gordon Brown into the renewed furore over the Iraq war.

In his evidence session, Mr Campbell said that the then- chancellor was one of Mr Blair's "inner circle" and one of just three Cabinet ministers to be party to discussions in the run-up to the war.

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As the man signing the cheques, perhaps it was a statement of the obvious that Mr Brown was implicated. But it was Mr Blair who had to absorb the hatred and blame for the Iraq war, rather than Mr Brown who was always been ambiguous about his real views over the invasion. Yesterday, Mr Campbell said Mr Brown was "certainly" at the heart of the discussions.

Mr Campbell's words increased the pressure on the PM to appear before the Iraq inquiry as soon as possible.

The only thing that should worry Mr Brown more than yesterday's offerings from Mr Campbell or his own looming evidence session is the appearance of Mr Blair before the panel. There are many scores to be settled and the former PM may just want to repay some favours.

Interestingly, the former communications chief also chose to implicate two ministers suspected of being behind the plot to destabilise the PM last week – Geoff Hoon, who openly called for a secret ballot of MPs to decide whether to change the leader, and Justice Secretary Jack Straw, who was forced to defend his innocence.

That would teach them all a lesson. If he was still in charge (Mr Campbell, rather than Mr Blair), last week's debacle would never have been allowed to unfold.

Mr Campbell expressed the same cavalier attitude about the justification for the war as his former master. The dossier was not "sexed up" as the suggestion was that Iraq could deploy weapons from between 20 to 45 minutes, and the government chose to go with the longer 45-minute claim. Either way, Mr Campbell was dancing on the head of a grenade as the intelligence turned out to be more fictitious than an episode of Spooks.

In a statement that will do nothing to enhance Labour's votes though, Mr Campbell almost appeared to revel in the war's unpopularity. "I was privileged to be there and I'm very proud of the part I was able to play," he said.

It is one thing to bear grudges against the troublemakers – that includes the current PM who made his ex boss's life hell – but it is another to have a deathwish for the entire Labour Party.