I have just come back from doing an piece for 5 Live with Edwina Currie on Alastair Campbell's diaries. It was ostensibly to preview the 3 part BBC2 series which starts tonight. I had, in my naivety assumed that it was a three part documentary on Campbell and his reign of terror at Number Ten, but it seems I was wrong. The BBC, in its infinite wisdom, has paid a production company several hundred thousand of your licence fee payer pounds to make a three part puff for Campbell's diaries. Apparently, all it consists of is Campbell reading out extracts of his book. There are no interviews, no contextualisation, no analysis - nothing apart from Campbell reading out his book. Well excuse me while I go and watch paint dry, instead.
I can think of no one who book the BBC has publicised more than Alastair Campbell. I can think of no one who has ever had a full half an hour interview in the 8.10 slot of the Today Programme. I can think of no one who would be allowed three programmes simply to read their book out on prime time BBC2.
Is this the BBC's way of saying sorry?
Ironically, for Campbell it may all backfire. Campbell didn't do a newspaper serialisation, but the effect of all this publicity may be the same. If people think they have heard all about the book and know what's in it, they are unlikely to go out to a bookshop and spend £25 on buying it. Having said that, it is number 3 in the Amazon charts, so it can't be doing all that badly.
Experience tells me, however, that this book won't have legs. Some books sell large numbers in the first week of publication then barely sell a copy afterwards. Others have slower sales at the beginning of the sales cycle but will still be selling decent numbers six months later. I suspect Campbell's book falls into the first category.