Excl: a revealing SKWAWKBOX conversation with Alastair Campbell

Earlier today, the SKWAWKBOX wrote to former Blair spin-doctor, arch-remainer and second referendum advocate Alastair Campbell, after Campbell had tweeted an class-based attack on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and his team:

Labour’s policy is to respect the result of the 2016 referendum, so the criticism is misplaced – but Campbell’s ‘posh boys’ jibe is interesting, given the prominent role of wealthy and privately-educated centrists at the heart of the arrogantly-titled “people’s vote” campaign.

To his credit – initially at least – Campbell responded at length. But what he refused to answer – and the tone he took – were as revealing as the responses he did provide. The conversation is reproduced below in full, minus extraneous headers. Emphases have been added for this article.

Mr Campbell,

You’ve tweeted an attack this morning on various Labour figures, including ‘posh boy revolutionaries Milne/Murray‘ and others, in what reads like a ‘declaration of war’ on Labour. I’m going to be running a feature very shortly highlighting this tweet alongside some of the key advocates for a so-called people’s vote, as the phrase ‘posh boys’ – and women – would certain apply to a lot of them. The recent image of you alongside David Cameron will feature, for obvious reasons.

If you wish to make any comment for inclusion, please provide it by return and no later than 3pm. You might wish to include your take on:

1. how you think Labour could win a general election if it alienated its leave-supporting voters – or if you don’t think it can, why you think this is acceptable when your and other centrists’ early attacks on Corbyn and his politics were based on the assumption that getting into power was Labour’s chief responsibility
2. why you think “people’s vote” is an acceptable title when people voted the first time, much as you might dislike the result
3.how you think that PV supporters speaking of leave voters as if they were fools or racists to vote leave in 2016 is going to help win them over
4. why PV campaigners are misrepresenting the motion at the last Labour conference as a ‘commitment to campaign for a PV’ when it merely resolves that all options should be kept open
5. whether it’s better to be a ‘posh boy’ who has resolved to fight the fundamental inequality of society, or middle-class who’s actively undermining the Labour Party in the media and on social media

Thanks

Campbell arriving at a charity event with ‘posh boy’ David Cameron

Very quickly, Campbell responded – a mix of substantive answers and of sarcasm that appeared to be an attempt to dissuade the blog from using the information. However, no request was made to keep any of the information off the record:

How nice to hear from you. And thank you for putting so much effort into preparing your questions. Given I have a lot on today, (Labour MPs to see, money to raise, my own articles to write) and your editorial line has doubtless already been decided, forgive me if I don’t take too much of my time to reply. I do have ten minutes with my Pret chicken rice and broccoli soup however to be able to pen a few thoughts for you.

I’m sure given your commitment to fact-based journalism (this is a presumption, not knowing much about you, forgive me if I am wrong) that you will make clear in the reference to David Cameron (who yes is very much in the posh boy mould and possibly even as wealthy as Mr Murray) that he and I arrived separately to take part in a charity fundraiser for Bloodwise, which I have supported in various capacities since my closest friend was killed by leukaemia in the 80s. Being a man of the people I had travelled by tube and arrived at the church on foot just as Mr Cameron’s car arrived. He and his protection officers stepped out at the same time as I arrived, happily for tour picture editor no doubt (again I am making assumptions, that picture editor remains a post in this brave new media world.)

Also please be aware that far from declaring war on Labour I am pressing the leadership to oppose a policy – Mrs May’s Brexit – which will do enormous damage to the people Labour has historically done a great deal to support. I also believe that a clearer and more robust approach on Brexit, far from losing support for Labour, will increase it. Even you, though clearly much in love with the leader, must find it odd that the worst government and prime minister in our lifetime continue to lead Jeremy Corbyn  and Labour in many of the polls. Perhaps I was spoiled when working for Labour in opposition in the 90s, when our lead went as high as 30 points, but even so ….  this might help frame your coverage of the current state of Labour’s campaign.

I should also point out that the only people I ever hear saying that Leave voters voted out of ignorance or racism are people such as yourself and Nigel Farage who wish to make it an issue. I certainly have never done so. Nor would I. Indeed I understand many of the reasons why people voted Leave. Yet I also know the problems behind many of those votes will not he helped by Brexit. You also make an extraordinarily patronising point – to the public – in imagining they are some kind of homogenous mass. Many are not changing their views. Many are, in all sorts of directions. But I fail to see how it can ever be anti democratic to check with the public whether what is being offered by the government and Parliament is what they want.  
I hope this is helpful to you in your continuing coverage of this vital debate. And I hope you don’t feel too uncomfortable in seeming to share a political bed with Rees-Mogg, Johnson and Farage in your apparent belief that Brexit means Brexit whatever the costs, chaos or  consequences. 

People’s Vote. A campaign of the people. By the people. For the people. 
Brexit. An ideological project of the right. By the right. For the right.

Tara Chuck. 

Campbell did not, however, answer the following questions put to him in the original email:

2. why you think “people’s vote” is an acceptable title when people voted the first time, much as you might dislike the result
4. why PV campaigners are misrepresenting the motion at the last Labour conference as a ‘commitment to campaign for a PV’ when it merely resolves that all options should be kept open
5.whether it’s better to be a ‘posh boy’ who has resolved to fight the fundamental inequality of society, or middle-class who’s actively undermining the Labour Party in the media and on social media

This was pointed to him, along with a small set of follow-up questions. Where these related specifically to his own comments, his remarks are shown in italics above the follow-up question. Again, bold emphasis has been added for this article:

Alastair, fascinating response. Thank you for being so prompt.
As you managed to find the time to craft such a detailed reply, perhaps you could answer a couple of follow-ups?

1. “I also believe that a clearer and more robust approach on Brexit, far from losing support for Labour, will increase it.

Yet you must be well aware that the increase will largely come in areas Labour would hold anyway – and the losses will come in seats it either needs to keep or win. More votes in London, for example, will do little to move Labour closer to power. Losses in places like Middlesbrough South or Lincoln would move us further away.

2.Even you, though clearly much in love with the leader, must find it odd that the worst government and prime minister in our lifetime continue to lead Jeremy Corbyn  and Labour in many of the polls.

Personally, I find nothing odd about this at all. It’s what you’d expect with an implacably-hostile media and a large portion of MPs – not to mention former figures of influence such as yourself – constantly painting the party as unelectable. The surge when general election rules applied to media coverage supports this view. Do you disagree?

3. Do you really, seriously think that the tone taken by PV-advocates doesn’t suggest that those who voted leave and still want to leave are deficient?

4. Which do you think is worse – a UK in the EU under Tory government, or out of the EU under Labour?

Also, you didn’t answer my questions 2, 4 or 5 in the original enquiry, I’d appreciate a response on those please.

Also, isn’t it bullying to attack employees who can’t speak out to defend themselves?

In contrast to his first, lengthy response, the follow-up email probing the substance of his stance and claims met only with:

Sorry. Been in meetings all pm. 

You’ve had your lot.

‘Can’t answer back!’  – per-leese!!

A final attempt was made to get a meaningful response:

Didn’t say ‘can’t answer back’, so not sure why you put that in quotes. But are you denying that party employees aren’t free to comment themselves to rebut attacks on them?

The response:

You’re boring me now.

SKWAWKBOX comment:

Alastair Campbell clearly has a set of stock responses to justify his position – and given the state of most mainstream political shows, they will get him by.

However, once those answers were probed for substance – or lack of it – and when questions were asked about the electoral consequences of a campaign for a new referendum or he was asked to justify his disparaging comments about Labour figures or his own associations, the meaningful conversation ended.

It was also interesting that Campbell dismissed the idea that he and others touting a new referendum treat leave voters as racists or idiots – yet he immediately resorted to snide comments comparing what he presumed is the leave position of the SKWAWKBOX to Boris Johnson, Rees-Mogg and Farage. His own alignment with the position of Tony Blair did not seem to trouble him.

Critics of the ‘FBPE’/second-referendum fundamentalists frequently accuse them of an obsession with middle-class problems and a lack of understanding of the lives and concerns of people suffering under the predations of the Tory government.

Sadly, there was no cause for optimism that the SKWAWKBOX could discern in Campbell’s responses – or lack of them – of such empathy developing or even of a recognition of the problem.

For an understanding of the perspective of working-class communities that voted – and still want – to leave the EU, see the important guest post by South Yorkshire union activist Andy Searson, published yesterday.

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18 responses to “Excl: a revealing SKWAWKBOX conversation with Alastair Campbell

  1. Surely Cambell’s best buddy Blair, is the biggest posh boy of them all !!

  2. He appears to forget that the 97 election was won on 43%, and there was no country divided by Brexit then. These votes, however, were lost during his tenure, and the last time New Labour won an election was 2005. His form of politics is deeply unpopular, and if he has anything to do with next referendum, if there is one, including his ex-boss Tony Blair, then it will lose.

    • Craig Murray makes the point that many people in England and Wales who argued for remain were discredited figures–Campbell, Brown, Blair, Kinnock etc, That probably did quite a lot of damage.

  3. ‘I’m having pret chicken rice…’

    I couldn’t give a f**k. Nobody else gives a f**k neither.

    “I should also point out that the only people I ever hear saying that Leave voters voted out of ignorance or racism are people such as yourself and Nigel Farage who wish to make it an issue.”

    I should point out that the only people I hear carping on about Corbyn’s alleged antisemitism are those that wish to make an issue of it in order to slur him; Last year’s labour party…Modern-day political irrelevances with instant unfettered media access, such as yourself, bliar and mandelson.

    Bit rich – coming from someone who ‘doesn’t do God’ , innit?

    But that’s Campbell all over. Ashamed of nothing, outraged by everything. Yesterday’s man trying desperately to remain…

    PS – Just who the actual f**k calls people ‘chuck’ these days? The last one to use that phrase was the well known tory cilla black. Bit of a giveaway that, alistair.

  4. “I should also point out that the only people I ever hear saying that Leave voters voted out of ignorance or racism are people such as yourself and Nigel Farage who wish to make it an issue.”

    Bollocks! I read it every day in comments on msm from people who claim to support Labour, it makes me very angry….exactly as it was supposed to. In fact I’ve read “they didn’t know what they were voting for” within a comment on this blog, it’s a very popular meme amongst “Best for Britain” supporters, a political lobbying group run and financed by “posh boys” and the odd girl.

  5. “I’m sure given your commitment to fact-based journalism…”. Coming from the man who gave us the dodgy dossier. Campbell’s one defining moment in history was to compose a pack of lies which took us into an illegal war that killed hundreds of thousands and destroyed a country. The most distinguishing feature of his personality is that he doesn’t give a fuck about it; complicity in a war crime of that magnitude has done nothing to dent his sense of entitlement. Surely the man who brought us spin, otherwise known as lying, and Iraq, has a right to lecture us on “what will do enormous damage to the people”. I hope, when Corbyn comes to power, he brings some of these degenerates to justice. It would be a fitting response to their efforts to undermine him as unelectable to see them answering some of the most serious charges in the canon. Meantime, I’m not sure such people should be given any kind of platform.

    • You’re not going to believe this but I couldn’t agree more 🙂

      Back around ’97 I remember Blair’s coven being praised by some BBC commentator for their skilled spinning and feeling sick that lying should have become an accepted part of politics – something even to be admired – and in what was passing itself off at the time as the Labour Party.
      Expected from Tories but from our side?

      • “Expected from Tories but from our side?” Our side, David? Glad to hear it, but who’d have guessed? In the words of the poet:

        “Beyond the horizon, in the springtime or fall
        Love waits forever for one and for all
        Beyond the horizon across the divide
        ‘Round about midnight, we’ll be on the same side”

    • “The most distinguishing feature of his personality is that he doesn’t give a fuck about it; complicity in a war crime of that magnitude has done nothing to dent his sense of entitlement.”

      You are speaking of the supreme war crime. War criminals in the western bloc have a sense of entitlement because they have immunity conveyed by the modern imperial system. They are protected from consequences of their actions because their and future similar actions are required to continue the murderous, expolitative and destructive system of plunder and reshaping the world for the benefit of western capital, allied elites, finance and those who benefit from and serve it. If their immunity was lost and a full and truthful narrative emerged the system, including the cover ‘democratic’ ‘human rights’ narratives, as it is currently constructed would be in danger of collapse.

      Even Craig Murray, previously a staunch EUrophile, sees the “Peoples Vote in Danger of Becoming War Criminal Rehabilitation”.
      https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2018/12/peoples-vote-in-danger-of-becoming-war-criminal-rehabilitation/

      Meanwhile, across the pond war criminal rehabilitation is in full swing.

      We must not forget the so called public service and corporate media are part of the system…

  6. Lol “posh boys” indeed. With his very comfortable middle class background and Cambridge education Campbell isn’t exactly the “son of toil” that he likes to make out he is.

    • No no, Albert – He’s northern and supports Burnley…Without being down the pit 18 hours a day, and keeping and racing pigeons & whippets for the other 6, that’s as working class as you can get.

      H’es not scared of chips & gravy when amongst the hoi polloi. His eating ‘pret chicken rice and broccoli soup’ is a rebellious statement to the really posh in westminster that he’s just a common oik, really.

      No, honest!!

    • Yes, I can remember Barbara Follet MP denouncing as ‘middle class’ some of the people who opposed the invasion of Iraq.

      The Follets later donated at least £50,000 to Yvette Cooper’s leadership campaign. Happily, it came to nothing,

  7. Campbell loves his alpha -male image. He is an authoritarian, a bully, hugely arrogant, intolerant & short-fused but he is also surprisingly weak with sentimental attachments to certain people, events and ideas. He has feelings -weeps over a few things that we would weep over. But he cannot turn the spotlight on himself and the damage he has done. Enormously self-deceptive. Oh yes, he works fast, thinks fast, smart even but lacks the deep intelligence which would have made all the difference. He can’t grasp foreign policy. He never understood how a War promoted by Chaney and Rumsfeld and US interest groups, was about revenge for Bush snr,, about oil for the US, about power and money for those firms that milked the War. Campbell did not grasp how it would (and did) destabilise the Middle East. He has always hidden behind the fact that ‘he was only doing my job’ with the help of John Scarlett, of MI6, a friend. The only thing that momentarily got under his skin, was the death of Kelly. I knew Campbell from afar when I was a lowly PRO for Labour , in the late 80s when he was working on The Mirror but advising Mandelson & Kinnock for the 1987 election. This was a time when the Shadow Communications Agency ( initially much work done pro bono) with Philip Gould and Deborah Mattinson were conducting focus groups. These were to provide the ‘evidence base’ for a successful election strategy while Labour shook off the dinosaur image of what was left of the Unions, but kept the Unions onside for the money. The constitution and machinery of the Party was changed to marshall a disciplined band of Blairites- Tories with a caring face’ . But in 1997, who knew? (At the time, John Major was boring people to death with the cones hotline and Thatcher had gone). . And, by the way, he knows exactly what Skwawkbox is.

    • That’s the first time I’ve read that he has an alpha male image.
      You sure that’s not just another rumour he started himself?
      Alpha male ffs 🙂

  8. The country was ripe for change when Bllair got in and he only got in because of the sad death of John Smith (which they always forget).
    The success of Blairism (Neo-Liberalism) it could be argued is perhaps overstated.
    I agree with those who call for Blair & Bush to be tried in The Hague over the Itaq War but some suggest Campbell with his ‘dodgy dossier’ for his political boss perhaps may have questions to answer too but of course for Alistair it is perhaps ABC – Anyone But Campbell?
    Brecht once suggested some vote losers “should find another public” and in this case our losers demand a second “Peoples Vote” to try to desperately stay in the Neo-Liberal EC.
    Leave and democratically control labour and capital supply and we break the Neo-Liberal chain!

  9. Given his comment that Labour ought to be miles ahead in the polls perhaps he could explain why remain isn’t miles ahead in he polls.

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