Sketch: The king of spin speaks at the Charity Communications Conference

Given Alastair Campbell's fearsome reputation when he was Prime Minister Tony's Blair's master of spin, delegates at last week's Charity Communications Conference '07 would have been forgiven for expecting a Rottweiler.

What they actually got was a Yorkshire terrier - outwardly much more approachable, but still likely to snap at your heels when provoked.

He took to the stage wearing a red tie, perhaps to signify his political allegiances or simply to complement the backdrop, then deliberately pulled his socks up, one at a time, as if going through a personal pre-battle ritual.

Yet he remained relaxed throughout, only showing a glimpse of his former self when talking about his dealings with journalists as director of communications at Number 10.

Campbell told Penelope Gibbs, interviewer and director of media-matching website AskCharity, that he hated the word 'celebrity' but then went on to boast that his daughter regularly comes home and says "Dad, you're in Heat magazine". Could it be that he is aiming to one day follow in Blair's footsteps and become 'Torso of the Week'?

Campbell appears to be taking his time in getting accustomed to the idea of a new Prime Minister. He kept referring to Blair, before correcting himself and saying, "Gordon". Perhaps in Campbell's eyes there is only one true leader of New Labour.

While generally sympathetic to the challenge facing charity press officers, he warned against adopting a victim mentality. "Everyone thinks they get a bad press," he said. "But the single most important thing that will affect your coverage is the strength of the argument. A policy that cannot be properly explained cannot be properly understood."

Despite having once been political editor at the Daily Mirror, Campbell's comments on journalists were distinctly uncharitable. He said: "The real spin doctors are the journalists.

"The media is trying to put out the message that it is the only legitimate voice. Journalists love to talk about themselves."

If the words pot, kettle and black sprang to mind, the delegates didn't let on, and gave Campbell the kind of warm round of applause that he could only dream of in his previous job.

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