QUAYS News sat down for an interview as Alastair Campbell talks Brexit, Jeremy Corbyn and why the younger generation need to step-up to fix the Labour Party. Daniel Willis has more.
To say Alastair Campbell has had a storied career is an understatement. Originally cutting his teeth as a political correspondent with the Daily Mirror to propelling Tony Blair’s New Labour into Downing Street, the acclaimed political strategist is now returning to the political arena to fight the latest war – the ongoing saga that is Brexit.
“The Brextremists are living in La la land in the way they pretend that everything is going to be great. It really is not,” Campbell warns.
For Campbell, his new job as editor-at-large of the anti-Brexit news outlet the New European is a way to offer the 48% who voted Remain an outlet to offer a view on Brexit.
Campbell however explained it has a long way to go until it can challenge the mainstream tabloids.
“I think it would be pushing it for a new start up which was launched without real marketing or advertising. Also it was originally only intended for four weeks post referendum to fully counter the Mail, Sun, Express, Star, Telegraph etc
“But at least in our heavily biased right wing anti-European media landscape we can provided a voice and a platform for the many people who think Brexit is a total catastrophe for Britain now and into the future.”
As one of the founding fathers of the New Labour movement in the mid-to-late nineties, Campbell became known for his uncompromising and painfully pragmatic nature on the national political stage. He was a driving force behind helping the Labour Party become a ruthlessly driven election winning machine.
Fast forward over a decade after Campbell stepped down from the Labour limelight – and murmurs of the ex- Director of Communications and Strategy returning to the national fold have arose. But he’s announced he’s steering clear.
“No. I fear that ship has sailed. For various reasons in the past the timing has never been right. I know I will regret not standing in my own right.
“I am likely to regret doing it, not least because it would mean sacrificing the personal freedom I have developed in my life and career.”
Back in 2015, Alastair Campbell released Winners: And How They Succeed, to much acclaim. The book told the story of himself, and many other fellow master strategists who are known for their committed, cerebral outlook on leadership.
On such a vital matter Brexit, Campbell is quick to stake a whole lot of importance on the power of good strategy and leadership – something which he feels Jeremy Corbyn is not providing the Labour party.
“There must always be good strategy and leadership in any major campaign. I accept that the diffuse nature of the opposition to Brexit, and the woeful opposition being provided by Jeremy Corbyn on the issue, makes it difficult.”
Campbell has been very outspoken about his views on the Labour leader – even coming to verbal blows with Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell on Question Time in 2016, prior to the leadership election.
“The official Opposition is the usual vehicle for the kind of major opposition campaign needed right now.” Campbell ponders.
“There are plenty of leadership figures providing some leadership but they are mainly figures of the past political generation which is a problem.” he continues.
When asked on how The Labour Party can fix this, Campbell answers simply:
“The younger ones need to step up.”
As Brexit becomes more real day-by-day, Campbell understands the strain in which it is having across the United Kingdom – and why The New European can work to be a successful outlet for those who want to see the best outcome for the UK – with or without the EU.
“We are unashamedly anti Brexit – but not from a blindly idealistic pro EU standpoint. But from this perspective this is bad for Britain.
“We will go into economic and political decline. Added to which the strains of Brexit may tear the UK apart in two places, Scotland and N Ireland” Campbell says.
The Labour Party have been seen as the natural opposition of The Conservative Party for over the last century.
Recent decline in the polls however, are suggesting the public are struggling to get behind the current leadership – with one of the biggest electoral shocks ever coming in the Copeland by-election, a Labour seat since 1935 snatched by the Conservatives. The first time a government has won a seat from the opposition in a by-election since 1982.
Campbell’s fellow New Labour centerpiece Peter Mandelson has also spoke up. Both are avidly keen to see their former party survive.
When quizzed on the current Labour frontbench – Campbell sees some positives, but believes the leadership is damaging the party as a whole.
“I think Keir Starmer (Shadow Brexit Minister) is trying his best.
“But unfortunately he is hamstrung by Corbyn and McDonnell who are clearly less concerned about Brexit than most Labour MPs and members.” says Campbell.