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Alastair Campbell

Author and former head of communications to Tony Blair

Alastair Campbell is a writer, communicator and strategist best known for his role as former British Prime Minister Tony Blair's spokesman, press secretary and director of communications and strategy. Still active in Labour politics, he now splits his time between writing, speaking, consultancy, charitable fundraising, politics and campaigns.

He 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. He 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 did this until he resigned in September 2003, saying it had been enormous privilege but he wanted more of a life with his partner Fiona and their three children, now aged 23, 21 and 17.

His main hobbies are running, cycling, bagpipes and following Burnley FC. He took up running nine 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. He is the charity's chairman of fundraising. He returned to the Labour Party for six months prior to the 2005 general election and again to help the Party in the 2010 campaign. He 'played' David Cameron in Gordon Brown's rehearsals for the historic televised leaders' debates. He is one of the party's most in-demand speakers at fundraising and motivational events, and was a founder of the GoFourth campaign aimed at focussing Party activists and the public on the need to understand the real choices facing Britain. Together with former sports minister Richard Caborn, he pulled together two of the most successful fundraising dinners in Labour's history, both on the theme of sport at Wembley stadium.

Passionate about sport, he was written about different sports for The Times, the Irish Times and Esquire magazine. He was communications adviser to the British and Irish Lions rugby tour of New Zealand in 2005. He has raised funds for Burnley FC, a team he has supported since the age of four. His charity projects have involved him playing football with both Diego Maradona and Pele, and appearing in a one off version of the popular TV programme, The Apprentice.

In his time in Downing St he 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 saw 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 Number 1 bestseller. He published his first novel, All In The Mind, in November 2008, and his second, Maya, on the theme of fame and friendship, in February 2010. In 2009 he broadcast a one hour documentary on BBC2 about his own breakdown in 1986. Both the film, Cracking Up, and All In The Mind, won considerable praise from mental health charities and campaign groups for helping to break down the taboo surrounding mental health. Together with Stephen Fry and Ruby Wax, he fronted a multi-million pound mental health campaign aimed further at breaking down stigma, Time to Change. He was voted Mind (mental health charity) 'Champion of the Year' for 2009. Cracking Up won the Mind award for best mental health documentary. He is now in the process of publishing the unexpurgated diaries of his time in frontline politics. Volume One of his diaries, Prelude to Power, was published last June. Volume Two, covering the first two years of Labour in power, and called Power and the People, was published in January 2011. Volume 3, Power and Responsibility, covering 1999 to September 11 2001, was published in July 2011.

He is still occasionally involved in journalism, and created a mix of rave reviews, increased sales and left-wing anger when he guest edited an issue of the New Statesman magazine in March 2009. He is one of the most followed bloggers and twitterers in UK politics. His website is His twittername is @campbellclaret.

He recently won a Royal Television Society Award for a BBC North West documentary he made, 'Burnley are back', which featured the impact of Burnley FC's promotion to the Premier League on the town. He also appeared as a teacher in Jamie's Dream School, an educational TV experiment in which well-known people tried to reignite an interest in education among young people who had failed at school. Another recent TV achievement was victory in the BBC1 Football Focus Premier League predictions league table, which he won in a play-off with Alan Sugar. He is on the advisory board of the University and College of Football Business, based in Burnley but attached to Buckingham University, which offers Britain's first undergraduate degrees in the business of football.

My Brother Donald: Please Spread His Story Far And Wide, And Join The Fight For Better Mental Health

My big brother died on Tuesday. It was a massive, horrible shock, even though we have always known that people with his condition live on average twenty years less than the rest of us. My Dad lived to 82, my Mum to 88. Donald was 62. His condition was schizophrenia. His illness, not mine, is the real reason I campaign for better understanding and treatment of mental illness, not least because people who have schizophrenia do have such shortened life expectancy.
16/08/2016 13:28 BST

A National Catastrophe, And a Vacuum in Leadership. This Is What Britain Voted For

A few suggestions. Do not give up on the idea that the country can rethink this decision. Yes, accept the verdict of the people. But watch and get involved as the people express their regret in growing numbers and in varying ways. Do not allow Boris Johnson, chief architect of this disaster, to become the Prime Minister. Do not allow him, Gove et al, to escape the scrutiny they deserve for the lies they told... If you think Corbyn has to go, join the Labour Party, and help make that happen so that it can become a proper functioning campaigning party again, not a hard-left sect and vanity project, as a general election nears.
29/06/2016 10:16 BST

The Sports World Knows the Most Important Muscle in Men Is Between Their Ears

In elite sport, for many coaches and athletes it is now routine to have proper professional support, psychological and psychiatric, to get the best out of the mind; but in business and politics, where the work is much less physical and more evidently requiring of intellectual prowess, such support would be seen as a weakness, something not to admit to, and therefore not to have. This of course is how stigma develops, and with often catastrophic consequences.
13/11/2015 17:16 GMT

Cameron, Osborne, Hunt Should Watch Tonight's 'Panorama' to See the Gap Between Their Words and Their Country

I had my run-ins with <em>Panorama</em> when working for Tony Blair, usually because they tended to take a grain of truth from somewhere and flam it up into something worthier of a right-wing tabloid than the BBC. But tonight's version is all the stronger for being somewhat understated, telling the story rather than shouting it or ramming it down throats. I know our government leaders are busy (almost all) men, but I hope they find time to watch it. Because while they talk the talk on mental health, as the Prime Minister did in his party conference speech, the documentary shows the reality of mental health services on the frontline.
26/10/2015 17:41 GMT

It Has to Be ABC - Anyone But Corbyn: Labour Could Be Finished if He Wins

I have thought long and hard, having said two months ago I didn't intend to get involved in the Labour leadership debate, about whether to publish this piece. I am also aware that there is a risk that it will have precisely the opposite of the effect I hope it has - namely to make people think twice about backing Jeremy Corbyn - as his supporters take to social media to tell each other that if Blair's spinmeister is against him, he must be alright. But just as if I saw a car crash about to happen I would do what I could to alert the drivers to the danger, so I think I have to say something about what appears to be happening to Labour right now. Car crash, and more.
10/08/2015 12:54 BST

Enough of the 'Lessons of Defeat' - Can We Learn Some Lessons of Victory Please?

We've got to become as ruthless as the Tories and stop pretending that it's a bad thing to say that if you're in politics you have to want to win more than anything else because if you don't win you end up where we are now - powerless to do anything for the people we claim to speak for and who we know are going to have five years of crap ahead, possibly more. It is evidence of the ludicrous mindset of some of our people that somehow we should look at the most successful election winning leader we ever had as a problem. I am all in favour of learning lessons about defeat. But there are a few lessons from victory too.
11/06/2015 08:51 BST

Charles Kennedy - A Lovely Man, a Talented Politician, A Great Friend With a Shared Enemy

When I say that Charles was a lovely man and a talented politician, I mean it with all my heart. Having heard the news from a friend of Charles who knew he and I spoke and saw each other regularly, and who had found the body yesterday, I finally got to bed at three o'clock this morning, and was awake before 6, feeling shell-shocked and saddened to the core.
02/06/2015 09:36 BST

We Got It Wrong. Now We Must Have the Soul-Searching and Honest Debate We Have Perhaps Avoided Too Long

There is no point pretending that this is anything other than a disastrous result, yes especially in Scotland, but in England too. Perhaps one of the reasons we are in this position is because we took so long to elect a new leader after Gordon Brown lost in 2010 that we allowed the Tories to frame the politics surrounding the economy for the entire Parliament, and we did not rebut their attacks on our overall record with sufficient clarity or vigour, nor have arguments and policies able to build a coalition of support across the centre and the left of the political spectrum. Likewise clearly whatever strategies we thought we had for dealing with the nationalist surge in Scotland, they were not adequate.
08/05/2015 09:41 BST

Why Ed Was Right to See Brand and Why It Is Dacre, Murdoch and Cameron Who Are the Real Rusty Rockets

Like Ed Miliband, I have crossed the Brand threshold of his East London home. It is a lot funkier than the NW3 place that used to attract my daughter and her friends. Like Ed, I sat down with him and discussed politics. He was particularly keen to have a go at me about Iraq, and TB's motivations. I was particularly keen to challenge him on his view, expressed when he was interviewed by - and more than held his own with - Jeremy Paxman, that voting made no difference. He didn't change my mind about TB. I think I may have changed his about voting because afterwards I started to notice him changing his tune...
29/04/2015 13:06 BST

Time to Shout About Mental Health

I suspect that I, and others like me who are working for the Time to Change mental health awareness campaign, have many hundreds and thousands of speeches and talks and interviews still to go before we finally bring the walls of taboo and stigma crumbling down. The whisperers are people who come up to me and, unlike those who just want to say thanks for the talk, raise something else, lean in towards me and say very quietly "thanks for talking about mental health and depression, it really helps". It is good that they talk. But bad that they feel the need to whisper.
20/04/2015 00:11 BST

Would We Be 'Blaming' Cancer for the Deaths of Those People Who Perished in the Alps?

The long and the short is... We don't know. The papers didn't know. But they chose to decide the truth without knowledge. Now it may be that it turns out he was a depressive and those same papers will say 'ah, we told you so, we were right to run the headlines we ran.' To which the answer is 'no you weren't.' If he had just been told he had cancer, and a note to that effect had been found, would we be 'blaming' cancer for the deaths of those poor people who perished in the Alps? This is reporting that belongs in the dark ages along with witchcraft.
29/03/2015 21:06 BST

The Loser in the Debates Was the Public - And Not for the Reasons You Think

So after all the hype, the ads, the contorted build-up, the dozens of days of negotiations, the thousands of headlines, the millions of words of pre-match and post-match analysis, just over three million people bothered to tune in for the first 'big debate' agreed between the parties and the broadcasters. That is a shamingly low figure for all of us.
28/03/2015 14:56 GMT

May Robin Williams' Tragic End Herald the Start of New Attitudes to Depression

If he had had a heart attack, if had lost a long fight with cancer, if he had been knocked over by a car, would there be a need for a debate about 'what this says about the state of heart disease, or cancer care or road safety'? Possibly, but I doubt it. There still needs to be debate about depression as an illness, because there is still a lack of understanding that illness is exactly what it is.
12/08/2014 15:38 BST

At the Nexus of Media and Politics - Part Two

We should lower the voting age, and introduce compulsory voting- with a 'none of the above' option - in local and national elections. Russell Brand's performance with Jeremy Paxman was electrifying TV, but dangerous. People should get involved. They should vote. And they should get into politics in whatever way can make a difference.
14/11/2013 17:00 GMT

A Life at the Nexus Of Media and Politics - Part One

I think the pace of change has been greater during our lifetime than in any other period in history, and nowhere more so than in the media; papers, radio and TV active 24 hours a day, deadlines and regional borders effectively gone, news and comment largely fused, trends accelerated by social media which did not exist when I left Downing Street, let alone when I started. Mark Zuckerberg, 29, was not even born when I set out on the <em>Daily Mirror</em>.
13/11/2013 17:32 GMT

Why the World of PR Is Changing

There has always been comms. There has always been public affairs. There has always been PR. There has always been spin. Read the bible for heaven's sake. What is new is not spin but the reality of a globalized media age, an information economy, a world where technology is accelerating the pace of change on an exponential basis.
27/06/2013 18:59 BST

How Red Nose Day Is Improving Mental Health Services in Ghana

In 25 years, Comic Relief and its famous Red Nose have helped to raise £600million which has been used to help millions of people both in the UK and Africa. On a trip to Ghana earlier this year I met some of the most recent beneficiaries...
13/03/2013 08:12 GMT

Why Celebrities Need To Talk About Depression

Would India Knight ever think to say "everyone gets malaria...everyone gets cancer...everyone gets AIDS"? I doubt it, because she knows these are illnesses that strike some but not all of us. To say that "everybody gets depressed" suggests that though she says she knows depression is an illness, in truth she does not really accept that.
09/10/2012 10:50 BST