Alastair Campbell: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This article is about the British journalist, broadcaster, political aide, and author; for others see Alistair Campbell (disambiguation).
Alastair Campbell

Geoffrey Robinson (right) presents Campbell with the Channel 4 award for Political Book of the Year for The Blair Years, 23 January 2008 [1]
Born 25 May 1957 (1957-05-25) (age 52)
Nationality British
Alma mater Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge
Occupation Journalist, author, broadcaster
Known for Director of Communications and Strategy for New Labour
Religious beliefs Atheist[2]
Partner Fiona Millar
Children 3

Alastair John Campbell (born 25 May 1957) was Director of Communications and Strategy for the British Prime Minister Tony Blair from 1997 to 2003. He began working for Blair in 1994. He describes himself as a 'Communicator, Writer and Strategist' on his website.


Early life

Alastair Campbell was born in Yorkshire, son of a Scottish veterinary surgeon, Donald Campbell, and his wife Elizabeth. Campbell's parents had moved to Keighley when Campbell's father became a partner in a local veterinary practice. Donald was a Gaelic-speaker from the island of Tiree; his wife was from Ayrshire.[3] Campbell has two elder brothers, Donald and Graeme, and a younger sister, Elizabeth.

He attended City of Leicester School and Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, where he studied modern languages, French and German, for which he received an upper second (2:1). He later claimed he wrote essays based solely on works of literary criticism, often rather than having read the works themselves. He spent a year in the south of France as part of his degree course.

Campbell became interested in journalism. His first published work was Inter-City Ditties, his winning entry to a readers' competition in the pornographic magazine Forum. This led to a lengthy stint writing pieces for the magazine with such titles as Busking with Bagpipes and The Riviera Gigolo, written in a style calculated to lead readers at the time to believe they were descriptions of his own sexual exploits.[4]

Campbell became a sports reporter on the Tavistock Times. His first significant contribution to the news pages was coverage of the Penlee lifeboat disaster. As a trainee on the Plymouth-based Sunday Independent, then owned by Mirror Group Newspapers, he met his partner Fiona Millar.

National newspapers

Campbell moved to the London office of the Daily Mirror, England's sole remaining big-circulation supporter of the Labour Party. He became a political correspondent. His rapid rise and its accompanying stress led to alcohol abuse.[5]


Alcoholism and depression

Campbell was admitted to hospital in 1986 when he travelled to Scotland to cover Neil Kinnock's visit to Glasgow. He was detained by the police for his own safety after being observed behaving oddly. Police contacted his partner and following her calls to friends in Scotland the police let a family friend take Campbell to Ross Hall Hospital, a private BMI hospital in Glasgow where she and her father visited him. Over the next five days as an inpatient he was given medication to calm him, and he realised that he had an alcohol problem after seeing the psychiatrist. Campbell said that from that day he counted each one that he did not drink alcohol, and did not stop counting until he had reached thousands.[5]

Campbell returned to England, preferring to stay with friends near Cheltenham, rather than return to London (and his partner) where he did not feel safe. His condition continued with a phase of depression, and he was reluctant to seek further medical help. He eventually cooperated with treatment from his family doctor.[5]

Return to work

His first son was born in 1987; and when Campbell returned to the Daily Mirror, he had to restart at a low grade again and work nightshifts, but rebuilt his career and became political editor.[5]

He was a close advisor of Neil Kinnock, going on holiday with the Kinnocks, and worked closely with Robert Maxwell. Campbell's loyalty to Maxwell was demonstrated when he punched The Guardian journalist Michael White after White joked about "Captain Bob, Bob, Bob...bobbing" in the Atlantic Ocean shortly after Maxwell's drowning in 1991.[6] Campbell later put this down to stress at the thought of himself and others losing their job following the demise of the Daily Mirror proprietor.[7][8]

After leaving the Mirror, Campbell became political editor of Today, a full-colour tabloid newspaper which had launched in 1986, but was now trying to turn leftward. He was working there when John Smith died in 1994. He was a well-known face and helped to interview the three candidates for the new Labour Party leader; it was later revealed he had already formed links with Tony Blair.

Politics and government

Shortly after Blair won and became leader of the Labour Party in 1994, Campbell left the newspaper to become his spokesman. Having recovered and become teetotal, he told Blair about his illness, which Blair did not see as a problem.[9] He played an important role in the run-up to the 1997 general election, working with Peter Mandelson to co-ordinate Labour's campaign.

He moved into government when Labour won the 1997 General Election and was the Prime Minister's chief press secretary until 2000. He then moved to the post of Prime Minister's Director of Communications which gave him a strategic role in overseeing government communications. He was sponsored by the US President George W. Bush to complete the London marathon in aid of a cancer charity, Leukaemia Research.

Iraq War

In the runup to the Iraq War Campbell was involved in the preparation and release of the "September Dossier" in September 2002 and the "Iraq Dossier" in February 2003. These documents argued the case for concern over possible weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in Iraq. Both have been criticized as overstating or distorting the actual intelligence findings. Subsequent investigation revealed that the September Dossier had been altered, on Campbell's orders, to be consistent with a speech given by George W. Bush and statements by other United States officials. On 9 September 2002, Campbell sent a memo to John Scarlett, the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, in which Campbell directed that the British dossier be "one that complements rather than conflicts with" the U.S. claims.[10]

Later in 2003, commenting on WMDs in Iraq he said, "Come on, you don't seriously think we won't find anything?"[11] He resigned in August 2003 during the Hutton Inquiry into the death of David Kelly.

Later career

Campbell worked again for the Labour Party in the run-up to the May 2005 General Election. Sir Clive Woodward recruited Campbell to manage relations with the press for the British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand in 2005. Campbell wrote a column for The Times during the tour.

Throughout his time in Downing Street, Campbell kept a diary which reportedly totalled some two million words. Selected extracts, entitled The Blair Years, were published on 9 July 2007. Subsequent press coverage of the book's release included coverage of what Campbell had chosen to leave out, particularly in respect of the relationship between Blair and his Chancellor and successor, Gordon Brown. Campbell, who has expressed an intention to one day publish the diaries in fuller form, indicates in the introduction to the book that he did not wish to make matters harder for Brown in his new role as Prime Minister, or to damage the Labour Party.

Campbell has his own website and blog, as well as several pages on social networking websites.[12] He uses these platforms to discuss British politics and other topics close to his heart. So far, Campbell's commentaries and views have garnered media attention and generated ample interest among various on-line communities. In October 2008, he broadcast the personal story of his mental illness in a television documentary partly to reduce the stigma of that illness.[5] He has written a novel on the subject entitled All in the Mind.

Campbell appeared as a mentor in the BBC2 series The Speaker in April 2009 offering his advice on persuasive speaking.[13] He is a lifelong supporter of Burnley Football Club and writes about their exploits in a column called "Turf Moor Diaries" for the FanHouse UK football blog [14].

Stage and screen portrayals

A regular feature of Bremner, Bird and Fortune is a satirical version of Campbell's discussions with Tony Blair, in which Rory Bremner plays Blair and Andrew Dunn plays Campbell. In 2005, Campbell was played by Jonathan Cake in the Channel 4 television film The Government Inspector, based on the David Kelly Case. The following year, he was portrayed by Mark Beazley in the Stephen Frears film The Queen. Alex Jennings, who portrayed Prince Charles in The Queen, portrayed Campbell in the television drama A Very Social Secretary.[15]

It is also hinted that the character of Malcolm Tucker from the BBC political satire comedy The Thick of It is loosely based on Campbell. Tucker is famous for his short fuse and use of very strong language. Campbell himself seems to have a few qualms about being associated with the character. In an interview with Mark Kermode on BBC2's The Culture Show, he denied that the two are similar in any relevant way, but admitted to his liberal use of profanities in the workplace.[16]

Selected works


  1. ^ a b Channel 4 News (23 January 2008). "Political Awards: and the winner is...". Channel 4.  
  2. ^ "Coming out as atheist: Alistair Campbell: | National Secular Society". Retrieved 2009-05-11.  
  3. ^ Seon C. Caimbeul "Beachdan 'ceannard nan car' mu ar cànain" The Scotsman 28 July 2007, Retrieved on 30 July 2007
  4. ^ Oborne, Peter and Simon Walters (2004). Alastair Campbell. Aurum. ISBN 1-84513-001-4. pp. 25-32.
  5. ^ a b c d e "Cracking Up". BBC Two television documentary written and presented by Alastair Campbell. Broadcast Sunday, 12 October 2008.
  6. ^ Michael White "White vs Campbell", The Guardian, 5 November 2001. Retrieved on 19 July 2997.
  7. ^ Simon Hoggart "Sooner or later, Campbell was going to lose it", The Guardian, 26 July 2003. Retrieved on 19 July 2007.
  8. ^ Nick Assinder "The life and times of Alastair Campbell", BBC News, 29 August 2003. Retrieved on 19 July 2007.
  9. ^ Alastair Campbell (2007). The Blair Years. Random House. entry for 6 April 2002. ISBN 0099514753.  
  10. ^ Ames, Chris; Norton-Taylor, Richard (10 January 2010), "Alastair Campbell had Iraq dossier changed to fit US claims", The Guardian,, retrieved 2010-01-12  
  11. ^ 'Did I say that', Observer magazine 29 March 2009
  12. ^ "Hear the latest from Alastair's Blog: Sign up for RSS feed". Retrieved 2009-05-11.  
  13. ^ "Alastair Campbell, Speaker Mentor - "Define your key message"". The Speaker, BBC. April 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-10.  
  14. ^ "Alastair's Turf Moor Diaries".  
  15. ^ International Movie Database, Alex Jennings (I).
  16. ^ Interview available at
  17. ^ "Campbell diaries to be published". BBC. 16 October 2008.  
  18. ^ "The Blair Years". The Random House Group.  
  19. ^ "Feel the fear". Guardian. 25 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-31.  

Further reading

  • Jones, Nicholas (2000). Sultans of Spin: The Media and the New Labour Government. Orion Books. ISBN 0-75282-769-3.
  • Oborne, Peter and Simon Walters (2004). Alastair Campbell. Aurum. ISBN 1845130014
  • Rawnsley, Andrew (2001). Servants of the People: The Inside Story of New Labour. Penguin Books. ISBN 0-140-27850-8.
  • Seldon, Anthony (2005). Blair. The Free Press. ISBN 0-7432-3212-7.

Alistair Campbell can be heard talking to Brendan Bruce ( former Director of Communications of the Conservative Party) for his book 'Images of Power' ( Kogan Page, 1992) at the British Library Sound Archive, reference

External links

Simple English

Alastair John Campbell (born 25 May 1957) was the Director of Communications and Strategy for the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (Tony Blair) between 1997 to 2003.

He used to work for the Daily Mirror as their politics reporter, and was an alcoholic. Then he had a breakdown, gave up drinking, and started working for Tony Blair in 1994. He was seen as one of the main spin doctors in the Labour Party. He eventually resigned over the 45 minute claim in the dossier prepared over the Iraq War, after the Hutton report had come out and Doctor Kelly was dead.

He currently works as a broadcaster, journalist and spokesman for Leukaemia Research. He is said to be re-joining the Labour campaign team for the 2010 election.


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