Political Correspondent Denis Campbell watches Tony Blair's right-hand man deploy flattery, humour and even the truth in front of a Select Committee

The best-kept secret in British politics is finally out. Many in Downing Street, Whitehall and Westminster have long sought an answer to the same question. Does Alastair Campbell - the Prime Minister's bagpipe-playing press secretary with the unmistakably Caledonian surname but English accent - support Scotland or England at football?

Readers, cast off your World Cup gloom; at least the Tartan Army has got a (famous) new member. It already had the world's most famous Scotsman, Sean Connery. Now it also has possibly the world's shortest-tempered Scotsman, namely Tony Blair's Svengali of spin.

In the over-excited language of tabloid newspapers, Campbell's former milieu, this wee disclosure qualifies as ''a shock revelation''. It emerged unexpectedly last night as MPs on the Commons Public Administration Select Committee grilled Tony Blair's mouthpiece for two-and-a-half hours on his sinister

spin-doctoring crimes.

Inquisition over, committee chairman Rhodri Morgan finally raised The One Subject Labour Don't Talk About Publicly. ''Commentators have referred to the seriously divided loyalties in the Government, between those who follow Brown and those who follow the one close to God,'' began the wily Welshman.

A roomful of MPs, hacks, top civil servants and Campbell's Labour acolytes, impressed with the MP's daringly public washing of the Government's dirty linen, held its collective breath. ''So who do you follow'', inquired Morgan with a smile, ''Craig Brown or Glenn Hoddle?''

The Prime Minister's official spokesman, to use his proper title, collapsed in laughter at what in his old trade is called a delayed drop intro. Glancing at your humble correspondent on a nearby bench, Campbell was forced to admit: ''I see The Herald are here. I have to admit that I support Scotland!''

That news will surprise lobby hacks familiar with Campbell's regular snorted references to the unending problems the troublesome Scots seem to pose for his boss, another Scot who now belongs to the Auld Enemy. However, that was probably the only truly surprising snippet of information to emerge from Campbell's appearance before the MPs. In boxing parlance, they barely laid a glove on him.

Beforehand, both Tory and Labour members of the committee talked as if they were about to uncover a Watergate at the heart of Westminster through ''the Campbell tapes''. All manner of crimes against truth - lying, deceiving, bullying the media

- would be exposed. It never happened. Deploying flattery, humour, bluster and not a little truth (yes, truth), Number Ten's so-called Minister of Propaganda repelled his questioners with ease.

The allegations were serious enough. That he had told porky pies to hide the fact that the PM had lobbied the Italian premier on behalf of Mr Rupert Murdoch. That he ordered Cabinet Ministers around. That he slagged off Cabinet Ministers who might not be up to the job. Did we learn anything new? Did any MP produce a smoking-gun to prove any of this? Not at all.

Tory MP David Ruffley raised the question of ''the Campbell tapes'', the recordings of his twice-daily Downing Street media briefings.

These were meant to be the smoking gun. ''Ah, 'the Campbell tapes','' smiled Campbell. ''I can see the headline you're after.''

''So you can see things like that coming?'' replied Ruffley. ''I can,'' said Campbell defiantly. It's a shame others aren't so sharp.

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