Monday 16 September 2019

Alastair Campbell: Labour Party is in denial

The former Downing Street spin doctor spoke on stage during the Edinburgh TV Festival.

Alastair Campbell, the director of communications during Tony Blair’s time as prime minister (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
Alastair Campbell, the director of communications during Tony Blair’s time as prime minister (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

By Craig Simpson, PA

Alastair Campbell has said the Labour Party has been “in denial” since the last election.

The former Downing Street spin doctor under Tony Blair has said the party is deluded to think it triumphed at the polls in 2017.

Campbell was in conversation with James Graham, writer of Channel 4 drama Brexit: The Uncivil War, at the Edinburgh TV Festival.

When quizzed about the state of British politics, former communications chief Campbell said that Labour had work to do in order to truly claim victory.

He said: “The Labour Party has been in denial since the last election, by thinking that they did very, very, very well.

“One of Corbyn’s people came up to me and used the phrase: ‘One of the reasons we won in the last election…’ and I said: ‘Hang on a minute.'”

In the 2017 election, despite opinion polls showing that they had a strong lead over Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, the Conservatives lost their Commons majority and formed a minority Government with the help of a confidence-and-supply arrangement with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

Campbell added that Corbyn’s brand of left-wing politics was too narrow to appeal to the broader church of northern constituencies.

He said: “They want tough on crime. Strong in defence. It’s not as simple as the caricature.”

Campbell spoke with Graham about the nature of fictionalising national politics to shape it into TV and stage drama.

The communications expert spoke of a moment re-imagined for screen in which Gordon Brown turned down then-Lib Dem leader Sir Nick Clegg in negotiations for a coalition in 2010.

Campbell has said that he was in the room for the conversation, in which Brown was concerned for the patience of the Queen.

He recounted the outgoing prime minister’s words to Clegg: “‘You are a good man but I think this the wrong thing to do.

“‘You are a good man and I think history may be kind to you.

“‘This is getting embarrassing, we’re keeping the Queen waiting.'”

Graham said that in fictionalising politics he developed certain practical sympathies for the people he chose to portray, including political strategist Dominic Cummings.

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Former spin doctor Alastair Campbell has criticised Labour (David Mirzoeff/PA)

He added that despite disagreeing with Brexiteer figureheads, they had ideological integrity, which he does not believe Prime Minister Boris Johnson possesses.

Graham said: “He (Mr Johnson) endorsed a particular side and normalised something that wasn’t normal at the time.

“He believes in nothing but his own power.

“I think that Cummings, and even Michael Gove, have the integrity to believe in what they are doing.”

PA Media

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