Customer Review

34 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An anti-hero of our time, 10 Aug. 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Alastair Campbell (Paperback)
This meticulously detailed but fast-paced book explains how Alastair Campell, ostensibly the Prime Minister's Press Secretary, was allowed to create his own job to accommodate his volatile and driven personality. Secondary legislation (Orders in Council) were implemented to enable Downing Street staff to be both Special Advisers and Civil Servants (and so to give orders to the hitherto impartial executive). The immediate result was a "purge" of the Government Information Service and the crowning fiasco was Campbell's (and Jonathan Powell's) part in coordinating the Iraq intelligence dossiers.
Campbell reached the heights from inauspicious beginnings. At Cambridge, he did little else other than play football for his College and drink himself blind in the "Late Night Bar" before, when he could manage to scrape himself off the floor, sallying forth into the night "to beat up an upper class twit". After a spell drifting around on the Continent, playing the bagpipes and exercising the ferret, he won a prestigious traineeship on the Mirror, eventually becoming political editor in his early thirties.
Oborne and Walters develop the thesis that from early in his career, Campbell's vocation was to act as Grand Vizier to someone who enjoyed extensive power. Robert Maxwell provided one dry-run for this ambition, Neil Kinnock another. Apparently Campbell developed a suspicion and antipathy towards the Parliamentary lobby as a result of their vicious treatment of Kinnock in the late 80s.
The second Mandelson resignation, "Cheriegate" and the vendetta against the BBC cumulatively made his position untenable - not least for asking for the PM's backing against his own wife - and suggest that the psychological demons once led to a (manic depressive?) breakdown have not been laid to rest.
It is difficult to know how his career will develop now. None of the (friendly) Murdoch papers have offered him a column and his roadshow he has bewildered audiences with boring asseverations of loyalty to Burnley FC and foam-flecked phillipics against the Daily Mail. He may be a vindictive bully (and auctioning a signed copy of the Hutton report didn't leave the sweetest taste in the mouth) but Campbell also emerges as supremely talented as well as loyal to a fault. I for one hope that he finds something fulfilling to do with the rest of his life.
To conclude, his unofficial biographers have blended constitutional exposition, psychological dissection and the drama of decision-making in the Downing Street nerve-centre with consummate expertise and I recommend their book to anyone.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 8 Jan 2012 17:06:05 GMT
PShepherd says:
Oh dear,yet another vitriol filled book from a Mail writer.
Why write about someone who you clearly have a personal grudge against?
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