Sunday 19 November 2017

Campbell's swiftly back in the thick of it

Shane Hickey

ALASTAIR Campbell's friends seem to think it is time the spin doctor hung up his Blackberry.

When Tony Blair's former head of communications turned up on RTE radio to discuss his appearance at a festival honouring the famous satirist Jonathan Swift, the text message on his mobile was clear: "Get off the radio!".

And the apparently irked listener was none other than Donncha O'Callaghan -- the Munster and Ireland player who was part of the 2005 British and Irish Lions squad for the tour to New Zealand on which Campbell was the PR.

But it doesn't seem likely that the infamous spin doctor, who was believed to be the inspiration behind the foul-mouthed Malcolm Tucker character from the BBC's political satire 'The Thick of It', is likely to stop talking any time soon. And last night he was debating how politics and the media coexist at an appearance at the Trim Swift Festival, which is dedicated to the writer dubbed "the greatest satirist in the English language" by organisers.

Speaking with a book to promote -- the first volume of his diaries -- in Dublin before the festival yesterday, Campbell was doubtful about what the future holds for politics due to the current media environment.

"It (the media) is changing so fast that I sometimes feel a little bit off pace and yet when I go in and am talking to people, I think 'where are the young ones coming along to take it on like we did?'," he said.

"Part of the answer to that is that I don't know whether a lot of people who might go into politics are not at the moment because it is a heavy place to be. I think it is also that people see what happens to people who get their head right up above the parapet."

One person Campbell still holds in high praise is former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, who was central to the Good Friday Agreement.


"What he did in relation to Northern Ireland was incalculable, absolutely amazing, and he did it because of his beliefs and his commitment and his negotiating skills and his ability to keep going," he said. "What happened during that period was an extraordinary thing. It was great to be part of it. For me, Bertie was a very special case, he really was."

The Trim Swift festival will run until tomorrow and will feature a range of politicians and pundits including George Hook, Oliver Callan, Brendan Keenan and Brent Pope.

Irish Independent

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