the Village Idiot

Former New Labour Press Secretary Alastair Campbell skillfully distracts attention from the disaster on the rugby pitch by making himself a constant source of controversy off it.

adding insult to injury

First, the Lions spend days crying to the New Zealand press about Tana Umaga's spear tackle on Lions captain Brian O'Driscoll in the first test. Campbell – willingly aided by coach Clive Woodward – is the architect of the strategy. It backfires miserably. The All Blacks, galvanised by what they regard as poncey moaning from the Lions, steam roll angrily all over Sir Clive's men in the next match, who resemble a schools Junior Cup team at a Wednesday afternoon training session.

the henson setup

Next, the "behind the scenes" media maestro causes an embarrassing row with Welsh centre Gavin Henson. Sir Clive is anxious to avoid an adverse media fallout following his decision not to include Henson in the team. Campbell sends a photographer to hide in a car to take a long-range shot of Henson and Woodward chatting. Henson is unaware he is being photographed. The image is then issued to the press, along with quotes from Henson stating he is "committed to the Lions." It all goes badly wrong when Henson reveals that he is very disappointed not to be in the team, and that he had no idea about the paparazzi-style photo-ambush.

campbell 'demeans' lions jersey

Campbell then prolongs the controversy by starting a fight with a Sunday Times journalist who asks him about the Henson incident. It ends up in print. The dejected Lions fly home to find the Henson-Campbell row spinning out of control.

Former Lions and Wales full-back JPR Williams typifies the rugby world's opinion of Alastair Campbell: "To have a spin doctor, Alastair Campbell, wearing a Lions shirt is really rubbing your nose in it. I'm very proud of being a Lion — and it's actually been demeaned."

john byrne