Tuesday 30 July 2019

Alastair Campbell's Tantrum

"Though I would win my appeal against expulsion", goes the blurb fronting up Alastair Campbell's thwarted resignation letter from Labour, "your losing mentality and lack of Brexit leadership mean I won’t return". I'm sure readers share with me the deep sadness that his malevolence won't be returning to the party for the foreseeable. Truly a black armband day.

Before we look at Campbell's letter proper, let us briefly examine his claim that he would win his appeal. The grounds for this boast are fanciful to say the least, assuming the appeal would be conducted by the rules and the panel isn't stuffed full of old Blairites. Readers will recall he invited automatic exclusion from the party for using the very considerable platform he commands to say he voted Liberal Democrat in the EU elections. As a voluntary party, Labour as per any party has the right to oblige its members to do certain things, like vote for it. As the rule book says, anyone "who joins and/or supports a political organisation other than an official Labour group or other unit of the Party" will "automatically be ineligible to be or remain a Party member". Campbell's argument would have rested on the ambiguity around whether an after-the-fact confession of voting LibDem constitutes supporting them. An argument unlikely to pass muster considering his pattern of activity aimed at undermining the party and using his profile to rubbish it. In other words, fessing up to voting for the LibDems was the very public crowning of a recent record of scabby behaviour. Considering what he did 15-16 years ago, Campbell ought to be grateful expulsion from Labour is the only sanction he's had to face.

As for the content of his letter, it's entirely predictable. Boris Johnson is Prime Minister (really?) and what he fears the most is a no deal vs a no Brexit referendum. The first polls of his premiership show the Tories eating into the Brexit Party's figures and that means Labour has no chance of winning an election with Jeremy Corbyn as leader. There follows more wrangling about the mechanics of his expulsion (which clearly stung him - rules, after all, are for the little people), and moaning about how the party doesn't represent his values any more. Which, if they mean sucking up to media oligarchs and telling packs of lies to wage an aggressive war, is no bad thing. He accuses Corbyn of having no strategy for addressing the policy challenges in front of us and, as a consequence, he might not vote for Labour at the next general election.

What a devastating critique. How can Labour possibly recover?

When you've spent your career manipulating news, telling lies, bullying people, and manufacturing the truth to serve the powerful, those skills don't automatically lend themselves to writing polemic. And Campbell's letter shows. It is, frankly, a dishonest dish of shit. If he paid more attention to British politics, he might have noticed Labour has adopted calls for a second referendum come what may. Yes, that includes after a general election when Labour has negotiated its own deal with the EU. However, just because the party has this position it does not mean it can happen. I know centrists are fixated with their magical grandpa nonsense, but Corbyn cannot pull a referendum out of a hat. Remember the indicative votes in the Commons almost four months ago? It seems the repeated failure to command a majority for a second referendum or, for that matter, any kind of Brexit save opposition to no deal has fallen down the memory hole. As for Johnson, Campbell is a fool if he genuinely thinks the polling will stay static. What the new Prime Minister is doing is entirely predictable, despite the hype surrounding Dominic Cummings and his supposed galaxy brain master strategies. And the boost, as anyone with a bare acquaintance with political history knows, is the kind of bounce most new leaders and new Prime Ministers customarily receive. The final missive, that Labour aren't facing up to the current policy challenges, borders on gaslighting. Tackling climate with a green industrial strategy - you can't get more relevant than that. Sorting out the housing shortage, tackling crap wages and zero prospects, making sure public services are properly funded, among many other things, are these simple hobby horses that count for nothing? They might be irrelevant to Campbell and his chums Tony and Mandy, but they are not to millions of people. 2017 saw Corbynism tap into the frustrations and grievances politics had hitherto ignored. And while Campbell might not entertain them, they haven't gone away.

Campbell's letter then is damaging, but only to himself. He comes across as an entitled yesterday man throwing a look-at-me tantrum. Doubly feted during the Levenson inquiry and for his role in continuity remain, he nevertheless barely registers for most people. And in the Labour Party itself, few hold a candle for him. The media platform he enjoys gives him pin money and a self-satisfied illusion of counting, but this is a simulacra of relevance doomed to diminishing returns. If Campbell's letter is the last straw and causes some to resign in solidarity, they're demobilising the Labour right further and reducing whatever residual influence the likes of Campbell has left. And this, all told, is no bad thing.


Anonymous said...

Alastair Campbell has had a good career from the Labour Party. You can either contribute like so many other members on a voluntary basis to help the party win the next election or you don't. If you want to leave don't make such a fuss- just look looks poor.

qwertboi said...

Goodbye Alastair. On the day when the shadow cabinet office minister Chris Matheson highlights the revelation that Farage has founded World4Brexit to raise funds from the US for Johnson's no-deal disaster capitalism brexit and says that this “raises serious questions", you are in no-way part of the answer.

You were rightly expelled from Labour a few weeks weeks ago and are now trying to harness more anti-Corbyn sentiment. You 'sexed-up' your expulsion from the party nearly as well and as well and as truthfully as you made exaggerated claims about Saddam Hussein's non-existent weapons of mass destruction

You'll be sorely missed.

Alan Story said...


Write more articles on extra-Labour Party (and Tory Party) matters.

Yes, Campbell's letter is entirely predictable; don't make your columns the same.

You are an extremely productive political commentator; I don't know how you do it, Phil. Why not write a bit less frequently, but on a wide range of topics? The obsession of LP members on internal LP matters can get a bit much.

Anonymous said...

I think Campbell Esq. is beginning to look and sound like good old Jo Gimmond.

Phil said...

Thanks Alan.

I'm sure you won't mind if I continue to write about what I want to write about, cheers.

Russ said...

Phil, your columns are up there with the best political writing in the UK. Always a must-read for me. Write about WTF you want. This is spot-on about Campbell. He should have been booted out in 2003. And, yes, he is a bully.

Anonymous said...

AC-Sadly just another big ego that dined out on the Labour Party.