Alastair Campbell: Iraq policy needed strategic comms

In his opening comments to the Iraq Inquiry Alastair Campbell has described how Prime Minister Tony Blair understood that a communications element had to be “embedded in policy decisions”.

The former Daily Mirror political editor turned Downing Street spin doctor told the inquiry this morning that he and Blair realised the importance of “strategic communications” more and more as time went on as “the only way of dealing with the media which was changing at a pace that was faster than any of us could have predicted”.

He said: “When we won the 1997 general election the communications systems we inherited for Whitehall were not fit for purpose….They had to be brought into the modern media age…”

“He [Tony Blair] recognised that in deciding any of the major high profile issues we had to have a communications element embedded in those policy decisions”.

Campbell refuted earlier evidence to the inquiry given by Sir Christopher Meyer, Britain’s former ambassador to Washington and later chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, about Blair’s meeting with George Bush at the President’s Texas ranch at Crawford in April 2002.

“If you are saying to me ‘Do I agree with Christopher Meyer’s analysis that at Crawford the Prime Minister shifted his position from one of containment and disarmament through the UN to one of regime change?’ I don’t.

“I don’t accept this analysis that at Crawford there was a fundamental shift in approach and policy by the Prime Minister.”

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