There was palpable tension in the air as the immaculately attired Campbell took the stage on Friday evening. This is a man who divides a room or in this case a rather large Guardian sponsored tent. Now that Labour is out of office Campbell is publishing a new set of diaries this time with the good stuff. The first ‘ Prelude to Power’ starts in May 1994 with the death of John Smith which created the opening for Tony Blair to become Labour leader through to his first victory in May 1997. The sense of expectation in the audience did not go unrewarded as Campbell provided a frank and direct take on the history of new Labour and his own sometimes flawed contribution
Francine Stock is a sublime interviewer. She didn’t give any quarter but Campbell parried the incisive questions with the skill that might be expected of one of the great communicators of the age. One of the most intimate revelations was over his response to the victory of 1997 “‘It was anti-climactic and Tony felt the same. Everyone was going wild at Festival Hall and both of us just wanted to go home…”I didn’t feel part of the celebrations at all.” Revealing that for Campbell it is the journey rather than the destination that carries the greatest weight and interest.
Stock also probed him on his mental state during and after that journey. He didn’t sugar coat his response alluding to both psychiatric help and the mental illness he has experienced and in this openness he does much to take away the stigma. Campbell is proud of the achievements of the Blair years “the three founding goals of the Labour party were minimum wage, devolution & abstinence, after eighty years of Labour we delivered on two of these”.