Thursday, May 25, 2017

All work and no play

Happy 60th birthday Alastair Campbell - one of the UK’s very best of modern political diarists. Looking back over his published diaries - now five volumes worth covering the years 1994-2005 - there’s definitely been more work than play on the 25th of May. Time for a party maybe!

The Diary Review has published two previous articles with extracts from Campbell’s diaries: A good press secretary and Call me Cherie. Here’s another collection of extracts, all dated 25 May, but mostly those in which Campbell actually mentions his birthday - more than half of his entries for 25 May (during the two decade period) do not refer to his birthday at all. All five volumes of Campell’s full diaries (the most recent was published by Biteback last October) can be previewed at Googlebooks: 1994-1997, 1997-1999, 1999-2001, 2001-2003, 2003-2005.

25 May 1994
‘I did the Today programme with Austin Mitchell (Labour MP). He said Cook hated Gordon which was a bit over the top. Took the kids to school. I wrote my column at home with the main piece on Mo but later changed it after Margaret Beckett announced there would be a deputy leadership contest at the same time as the leadership contest. Interesting move, necessary I suppose for her to be able to run for the leadership, and it meant JP could go for both without being seen to cause a lot of trouble. Gordon's office, doubtless at Sue Nye's prompting, rang me later to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to me down the phone. Went to Luigi’s for lunch, then to the lobby, hanging around picking up reaction on Beckett’s move. Interesting how many people said both that TB was obvious as next leader, but also that they didn’t know enough about what he really stood for. Took Mum to the House Magazine party in the Speaker's state rooms and introduced her to lots of people, Kim [Howells], Peter Bottomley [Conservative MP], Charles Clarke, Betty [Boothroyd, Speaker] herself who was really nice and warm. Peter M came round later. He felt Beckett would be more of a danger to the new leader than Prescott.’

25 May 1997
‘It was my birthday, and I got really nice letters from both Mum and Dad, with a cheque, saying how proud they were at what I’d done in helping win the election. I really must get up to see them soon. I’d been anxious throughout the campaign about Dad, and would never forgive myself if he suddenly died and I had not been up there enough. It was a fairly quiet day, though the Thatcher meeting went even bigger than I thought it would, leading the bulletins most of the day. I got a lovely call from Jim Callaghan, saying he would like to help and we fixed for him to do The World This Weekend, saying it was very sensible of TB to see her. TB called, worried I had stuck the Thatcher story in the paper, which I hadn’t. I was pretty sure Peter had put the Clinton/Cabinet story to Grice and once he realised the Sunday Telegraph had the Thatcher story, he gave that to Andy Grice as well. He was talking to the press far too much and was getting on my nerves again. TB was still thinking away re the European agenda and worrying about how we would get a deal in Amsterdam that would be a clear-cut success. He was at Chequers having a couple of quiet days before we headed for Paris.’

25 May 1998
‘It was a fairly quiet day. I put together a briefing re the Japanese emperor’s visit. I said TB wanted him given a warm welcome, that we had to look to the future not the past, added to all the stuff re economic ties etc. Nishimura called me to say the emperor and the Japanese government would be very happy with it. It would almost certainly mean a good kicking from the tabs, especially maybe the Mirror who would be on the lookout for revenge re the Clinton article. TB was fine with it though and felt we had to push a positive line through the whole trip. I went to see Ellie in hospital then took the kids to the fair in Hampstead. The story in NI was focusing too much on decommissioning.’

25 May 2000
‘[. . . ] We went out for dinner with the Goulds and Tessa [Jowell] and David [Mills, her husband] for my birthday. Ian Hutchison [Baroness Helena Kennedy’s husband] came in while we were there. I tore into him because of Helena’s latest blast at us. She was more and more oppositionalist and it had definitely been a mistake to give her a [House of Lords] platform. There are too many people who owe their platform to the Labour Party and just use it to undermine us the whole time. GB was leading the news on Laura Spence.’

25 May 2002
‘Birthday. Forty-five today. The herald for a weekend of gloom. Feeling really down again. Best thing was that Rory was running in the South of England qualifiers, so he and I went out to Watford. Fiona had bought me a pedometer and I ran for over an hour to get it working. The Roy Keane/Mick McCarthy drama was for some reason really draining me too, even though I knew neither of them well. I felt a real sense of empathy with Keane, felt he was driven but also haunted by demons, depression, violence, an inability to share all the same emotions as everyone seemed to have around the big moments. TB, coincidentally, said he had had friends over for dinner, one of whom asked what I was like. TB said he is the Roy Keane in the operation, driven, doesn’t suffer fools, expects everyone to match his own standards, flawed but brilliant.’

25 May 2003
‘Big pieces in the Sundays on Fiona to quit. TB called and said we had to put a lid on this. He said it was becoming dreadful for Cherie because the coverage was making her look crazy. I said it was bad for all of us. He said we had to make clear it was nonsense. I said there was no way we could deny Fiona was leaving, because she is. He was now very irritated by the whole thing, and when he was irritated with this kind of issue, he could become very irritating. It was as if this was all terrible for him when in fact they had created this madness by allowing her in so close. I gave the press office a line that Fiona had not left and that it was absurd to see this as some kind of power struggle with Carole, the usual flimflam. The problem was a number of journalists now already knew she was leaving. Philip was in the States and Georgia [Gould] needed a lift to the QPR vs Cardiff play-off finals at the Millennium Stadium, so I went down with her and Calum. She was a bit upset when they [QPR] lost, and we could see [Cardiff supporter] Neil [Kinnock] going crazy in the directors’ box. The Israeli Cabinet endorsed the road map, which dominated the news. TB said he found that even at weekends now, he was working pretty much all the time, and it never stopped.’

25 May 2004
‘47th birthday, and I was hoping that my resting pulse rate would be the same as, or lower than my age. I missed it by one - 48, which was still pretty bloody good. I spent most of the morning working on a speech for Qatar, and fixing to see Ian Botham at the Test Match in Leeds.’

No comments: