Alastair Campbell’s Labour intervention is his last-ditch attempt to stay significant

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It is safe to assume that, as well as anger and resentment, he will have been fuelled by remorse and regret in writing to Jeremy Corbyn

Alastair Campbell is not a man to hold a grudge. Over the dozen or so years that I edited The Independent newspaper, we had so many disagreements that it would be impossible to enumerate them.

We fell out profoundly over the Iraq war, of which the paper was a vocal critic. He occasionally wrote letters to me, seething over an editorial or a front page he considered disobliging to the New Labour cause. 

It would have been easy for us to be sworn enemies, and neither of our lives would have been  much different as a result. But, about a year after he left government, I saw him, in his running kit, jogging down Jermyn Street in central London.

Instead of continuing with this training, thus avoiding any embarrassment, he stopped, crossed the street, and greeted me warmly. We stood on the street corner, discussing politics and football as if we were the best of friends. 

We maintained a sporadic but warm friendship, and, for the final print edition of The Independent, published on March 26, 2016, I was asked to interview someone who’d made a big impact during my editorship.

I chose Campbell, and over a couple of hours in his house in north London, I questioned him on his political life and times. Even then, his disenchantment with Jeremy Corbyn was clear, his deep antipathy forming.

He believed that Corbyn’s ascent was partly due to New Labour’s inability to foster the significant amount of talent it had, outside the Blair-Brown axis. “We have to take some responsibility [for Corbyn],” he said. 

So it is safe to assume that, as well as anger and resentment, Campbell will have been fuelled by remorse and regret in writing to the current Labour leader, explaining why he no longer wants to be a member of the party.

On one level, Campbell is whistling in the wind. He doesn’t want to be in a club he’s been chucked out of anyway (he was expelled for saying he’d voted for the Lib Dems in the European elections). While he has good cause to challenge his expulsion in the courts, he’s now saying he doesn’t want to bother. 

He tells Corbyn: “The culture you have helped to create has made the party one that I feel no longer truly represents my values, or the hopes I have for Britain. I see no strategy in place that remotely meets the electoral or policy challenges ahead.

On the contrary … it is one that looks more designed to lose. I fear the country may already have decided that it does not intend to make you prime minister.”

 In this, he echoes the views of the many, not the few, and Labour stalwarts will have nodded in agreement with Campbell. His intervention has had widespread coverage in the national media, and, whatever they say publicly, will have wounded Labour’s hierarchy. 

 For those of us who survey the political landscape with a gathering sense of disillusion, we ache for something to change, and we’d like the Brexit hegemony to be challenged in a credible and constructive way.

That’s all Alastair Campbell wants, too. He is not, as I have illustrated, driven by personal animus, but by an honest conviction.

Yet I fear his urgings will be to no avail. Less the siren call of a potent political force, more the final convulsions of a big beast. 

      

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