Monday, 30 November -0001

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: ALASTAIR CAMPBELL

…is a British writer, communicator and strategist, best known for his role as spokesman, press secretary and director of communications and strategy for Prime Minister Tony Blair. He lives in London with his family.

What are you working on at the moment?
I am busy promoting my book, which means doing lots of media and events; I am helping Labour in the election, plus trying to fit in the consultancy and charity work I do, especially on mental health, which I think is reaching a tipping point.

When were you at your happiest?
After the birth of our three children. I don’t think anything can compare.

What is your greatest fear?
Anything terrible happening to the children, or Fiona [his partner] dying before me. On all sorts of levels, I am not sure I would cope very well.

What is your earliest memory?
I destroyed a lot of them with alcohol, but one of my first was running into the grounds of Cliffe Castle, near where I was brought up in Keighley, kicking a ball. I have no family there now, but I donated a recent portrait of me to the Cliffe Castle Museum.

What do you most dislike about yourself?
I swear too much.

Who has been your greatest influence?
Fiona. Hardly surprising, as we have spent so much time together over the last 35 years. I worked out the other day we have spent 20 per cent of our time on earth asleep together! Even though my diaries are full of her claims that I never listen to her, in fact I do. There is not much I do in my life without running it by her. She has great values, good judgement, and can see through bulls**t and bulls**tters from a mile off .

What is your most treasured possession?
It’s a toss-up between my bagpipes and my football boots, which have been signed by Pelé and Maradona. I have played with both of them. Not many people can say that.

What trait do you most deplore in others?
Snobbery, racism and the mistaken belief that private schools are better than state schools.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?
One eyelid does not open as freely as the other. It probably explains why the press uses pictures that make me look the way they imagine Machiavelli or Cromwell to look.

What is your favourite book?
Madame Bovary.

And your favourite film?
Lady Sings The Blues.

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What is your favourite piece of music?

Ne me quitte pas by Jacques Brel.

What is your favourite meal?
Fish soup, in a restaurant in the Old Town in Nice.

Who would you most like to come to dinner?
Abraham Lincoln and Angela Merkel. I think they would get on well, and I would love to hear the conversation about how they view politics.

What is the nastiest thing anyone has ever said to you?
‘Child killer’ or ‘war criminal’, I guess.

What is your secret vice?
Chocolate.

Do you write thank-you notes?
No, but I am pretty good at saying thank you.

Which phrase do you most overuse?
‘Get a grip’. Then again, it is required a lot.

What single thing would improve the quality of your life?
Not having bouts of depression. And a private jet.

Tell us one thing people might not know about you.
I failed my driving test five times.

What would you like your epitaph to read?
‘Whatever he did, he made a difference’. And I would like my obituaries to include a reference to the fact that the stigma and taboo surrounding mental illness has gone, and I played a part in winning that battle.

Winners: And How They Succeed, by Alastair Campbell, is published by Hutchinson, priced £20.


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