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

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.

Early life

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

He attended City of Leicester School and Gonville and Caius College, Cambridgemarker, 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.

Campbell became a sports reporter on the Tavistock Times. His first significant contribution to the news pages was coverage of the Penlee lifeboat disastermarker. 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.

Alcoholism and depression

Campbell was admitted to hospital in 1986 when he travelled to Scotland to cover Neil Kinnock's visit to Glasgowmarker. 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.

Campbell returned to England, preferring to stay with friends near Cheltenhammarker, 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.

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.

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. 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.

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. 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 early 2003 he advised on presentation aspects of the "Iraq Dossier". Later in 2003, commenting on WMDs in Iraq he said, "Come on, you don't seriously think we won't find anything?" 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. 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. 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. He is a lifelong supporter of Burnley Football Club.

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.

It is also hinted that the character of Malcom 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.

Selected works


  1. Seon C. Caimbeul "Beachdan 'ceannard nan car' mu ar cànain" The Scotsman 28 July 2007, Retrieved on 30 July 2007
  2. Oborne, Peter and Simon Walters (2004). Alastair Campbell. Aurum. ISBN 1-84513-001-4. pp. 25-32.
  3. "Cracking Up". BBC Two television documentary written and presented by Alastair Campbell. Broadcast Sunday, 12 October 2008.
  4. Michael White "White vs Campbell", The Guardian, 5 November 2001. Retrieved on 19 July 2997.
  5. Simon Hoggart "Sooner or later, Campbell was going to lose it", The Guardian, 26 July 2003. Retrieved on 19 July 2007.
  6. Nick Assinder "The life and times of Alastair Campbell", BBC News, 29 August 2003. Retrieved on 19 July 2007.
  7. 'Did I say that', Observer magazine 29 March 2009
  8. International Movie Database, Alex Jennings (I).
  9. Interview available at

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.

External links

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