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Alastair
Campbell

Journalism, politics and the leaders of our times.

Profile

Alastair Campbell was born in Yorkshire in 1957, the son of a vet. His family moved to Leicester in 1968, and he went to school there until going to Cambridge University in 1975. He graduated four years later with a degree in modern languages. His university education included a year in France when he had his first "journalism" published, articles on sex in Forum magazine. He also busked around the world with his bagpipes. Finally he decided to become a journalist and trained with the Mirror Group on local papers in the West Country before joining the Mirror itself in 1982.

Previous experience

Politics: Alastair left in the mid 80s to work for Eddy Shah's Today newspaper as news editor but had a nervous breakdown and left to return to the Mirror after convalescence. He rose to become political editor and the paper's chief political columnist. He then worked briefly for Today under new ownership in 1994 before being asked by Tony Blair to be his press secretary when Mr Blair became leader of the Labour Party. He did this for three years, and played a key role helping to create New Labour and return the Party to power. After the 1997 election he became the Prime Minister's Chief Press Secretary and Official Spokesman, which entailed the co-ordination of Government communications and twice daily briefings of the press. He did this job for Labour's first term but after helping Mr Blair win a second landslide election victory, he became Director of Communications and Strategy. He resigned in September 2003, saying it had been an enormous privilege but he wanted more of a life with his partner Fiona and their three children, now aged 20, 18 and 14.

Hobbies: His main hobbies are running, bagpipes and following Burnley FC. He took up running six years ago at the instigation of his sons and he has since run the London Marathon, the Great North Run, and the Great Ethiopian Run, and completed several full triathlons, all for Leukaemia Research Fund, his best friend having been killed by the disease. Since resigning he has been spending his time making speeches, writing, working for his charity as chairman of fundraising, and continues to advise the Labour Party informally.

Writer: Alastair Campbell returned to the Labour Party for six months prior to the 2005 general election. He has presented a series of TV interviews for Channel Five, whose subjects included President Clinton, Peter Mandelson, Bono and US cyclist Lance Armstrong. He has also written on sport for The Times, the Irish Times and Esquire magazine. He has also conducted a tour of UK regional theatres to talk about, and be quizzed on, his time with Tony Blair. He was communications adviser to the British and Irish Lions rugby tour of New Zealand in 2005. His charity projects have involved him playing football with Diego Maradona, and appearing in a one off version of the popular TV programme, The Apprentice.

Speaker: In his time at Downing St Alastair Campbell was involved in all the major policy issues and international crises. He has said that in ten years in the media, and a decade in politics, he has seen his respect for the media fall and his respect for politics rise. He is a sought after speaker at events around the world, specialising in strategic communications. On July 9 2007, he published his first book on his time with Tony Blair, The Blair Years, extracts from his diaries from 1994 to 2003, which was an instant Sunday Times #1 bestseller. His first novel, All In The Mind, was published in November 2008.

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Feedback
Audiences behave in obvious ways. Like bored children, they can fidget, shift noisily in their seats, even start whispering to each other. At the Borders Book Festival at midsummer in Melrose, 400 people crammed into a marquee to listen to Alastair Campbell talk about his diaries of The Blair Years, and for almost an hour and half were spellbound. Heads were absolutely still, anxious not to miss a word. They laughed loud and long at the daftnesses and farce of high politics and leaned forward, rapt, as Campbell unpacked the atmosphere and intricacies of diplomacy and domestic policy. In a translation of a Gaelic phrase, they knew that they were listening to the music of the thing as it happened. It was unforgettable. Borders Book Festival
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