Q&A with Alastair Campbell

Alastair Campbell, journalist, political aide and author, answers questions from


The highlight of my career? Apart from playing football with Saga Maradona, it’s got to be the election wins, but I didn’t enjoy them. I was stressed out, I wasn’t in the moment. I think in terms of the best moment that I can remember it was probably the Good Friday Agreement. I’m not saying it was my triumph but in terms of being part of something, that was amazing.

I had a very embarrassing moment this morning. I did that terrible thing when you say something about someone in a text and you send it to that person. It was really bad.

I do regret one thing. I don’t know how I could’ve done it, but I wish I could’ve done the job that I did and be at home more. Maybe I could’ve, I’m not sure.

I also wish I’d read more at university. At the moment I’m writing a nonfiction book and I’m reading a lot of books about different things and I’m just thinking God, I wish I’d read this before, I wish I knew about this. I just think at university you have so much time to read books and I didn’t do that.

Someone I’d really love to interview would have to be William Shakespeare. He’s my kind of all time. I went to see King Lear the other night and I couldn’t believe it. If he had only written one play and that’s all he’d done, you’d think wow, that guy really is quite something. Any emotion anybody has, put it into Google slash William Shakespeare and loads of things will come out that are really on the button. What I find fascinating about him as well is that so little is known about him, other than what he wrote.

The two politicians I find the most impressive? Of the current global leadership, both of them are women, Merkel and Hilary.

It is important for young people to have someone to relate and aspire to. People being inspired by great people is a fantastic thing. What I worry about in Britain is that to become a celebrity, you’ve just got to go on Celebrity Big Brother and behave like a complete twat and you’re suddenly famous and people are going ‘oh I love him’, ‘I love her’. I just think that that is not role modelling as it should be. Role models are great writers, great musicians, great artists and great teachers. Yes they’re great athletes, but not this kind of celebrity bollocks.

I do admire great sports people. I did a book called the Happy Depressive and it’s true: I cannot watch an Olympic ceremony without crying, even if they’re not crying. Because what I see when I see someone on an Olympic podium, particularly when they’re really young, is a person that has devoted their whole life to that. They’ve made sacrifice and they’ve made a real commitment. They’re the sort of people I admire.

Something people don’t know about me? I’ve never been shopping in a supermarket. I’m not proud of it.

I do actually have a fear of ketchup. I hate ketchup, I won’t let it anywhere near me. It’s not the biggest fear, I don’t like snakes and the fear of failure is quite a big thing. One of a few recurring dreams, loads of students must have this, is going into the exam room and getting the wrong exam or going into the exam and not having a pen and there’s a sign saying you get disqualified if you speak.

Of all the things I’ve done that’s been the most important was probably the job I did with Tony. Two things I’ve most enjoyed since I left are writing novels and playing football with yaga maradonna.

I like having the freedom to do lots of different things now. I don’t want the job, I don’t want to do one thing.

The person I would most like to interview who’s alive? I’ve already interviewed Lance Armstrong but I’d love to do it again because when I interviewed him the first time I believed him. I’d like to interview of the world leaders, Putin again. I’ve met Putin several times but I’d like to sit down and talk to him rather than be there as an aide.

I admire the people who make change happen. I admire people who turn around failing schools, that’s really hard. I’ve met people who are mentally ill who do amazing things who probably don’t get any recognition but still do great work.

A trait I most deplore in other people is racism. It’s the thing that makes my blood boil. My daughter’s just recently got me into this new wave of feminism. There’s a lot more about this new wave feminism thing now, anti-sexism. But also laziness. I can’t stand when really really bright people don’t do anything with it.

My hopes for 2014? That Scotland stays in the UK, Burnley gets into the Premier League and it’s the last full year of David Cameron’s term as Prime Minister.

With thanks to York Union for arranging this interview.

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