but soon the eountry was politieally eonstipated. Did you lie awake at night as the veil of disappointment settled over Britain." .-\s I look at you now. sitting (u't'oss tlte tabletrmn me. I realise you probably did. You are passionate. irate. ball- busting and as loyal as a lapdog.

Now. he‘s on the road. giving ‘An Audience with Alastair (‘ampbell‘ to anyone prepared to pay the £14 admission fee. lle filled 2()()() seats at the opening gig in London's Royal l’estival Hall but he says he's not confident that the (ilasgow leg will sell out. That’s why he‘s prepared to waste half an hour of his precious time on me.

You don 'I look at all tired. like you used to around the time of the Kelly affair I remember the rings under your eyes. the perma-seon'l. 'Ioday. you look foeused. togetltet: By the time I've told you I'm not interested in goittg over the Kelly business again. preferring to A/oeus on the tuture. you've got me sussed.‘ soft. .

"l‘hat suits me down to the ground.‘ he says. relaxing. He‘s

used to batting away tedious journalists. like a cat with a half— dead mouse. and I‘m not going to require such treatment. I ask why he’s putting hitnself through this celebrity stuff.

‘l‘ve got a pathological fear of being bored: so I'm looking for interesting things to do. And if you‘ve done what I‘ve done basically childhood. university. journalistic career. political career how do you pull that together'.’ Tell a story about it that makes a serious point. I‘ve done the journalism bit. and I loved every minute. and I've done the politics bit Ihe slices at the table with his hands] and I didn‘t enjoy every minute . but this bit Ithe politics] is more important than that bit [the

journalism]. It‘s time the public understood that politics

matters a hell of a lot more than journalism.‘

'I'hamping the table . . . a hint oft/tejamous blood-i'urdling temper A journalist told me ola letter you wrote to the editor of Ihe (iuardian. demanding his dismissal after he wrote an at‘tii'le you didn 'I like. The letter was .signed by 'Iony It’lait:

I ask what format the evening takes. ‘lt‘s a mixture of personal. political. anecdotes; I try and tell funny stories and local stories. Here. I‘ll probably do stuff about my nervous breakdown. which was here: I actually ended up in hospital in Paisley. My serious point is that I've been in the media and politics. and politics is better than it‘s painted. And Tony is a good bloke . . . Then the second half is just Q&:\. That depends on the audience entirely.‘

I remind him of the London gig. at which he was nervous.

‘l‘ll tell you what makes me nervous: people have made an economic decision to come. You‘ve got to think about that.‘ Afterwards. I do think about it. Basieally. you want people to

find you amusing and. paradovii'ally. to take you seriously.

But surely. I suggest. he's not going to do this for the rest of his life'.’ Is he really retiring into a life of soft politicking. masquerading as light entertainment? He‘s burnt his boats with journalism.

'Well. up to a point. but I'm doing a TV series later in the year. That‘s journalism. And I'm writing a limes sports column. That‘s journalism. Do I want to be an editor'.’ Probably not. But I don‘t know where I‘m going to come out. psychologically and with the family.'

Your resignation was pretty tricky timing. 1 say.

‘Yes it was difficult timing. but I knew in myself I had to go. This is transitional for the but I‘ll get involved in the next election in some form. 'l’hat will mean a lot to me. Labour winning a third term would be fantastic. 'l'hen maybe I will wake up and want to write a book. I‘d love to take up a campaign. I believe in compulsory voting; always have done. I could imagine myself putting together a campaign on that. actually campaigning to go into government.‘

lle’s clearly as ambitious as ever. and I don‘t think he‘s really enjoying this period in the political wilderness.

"l‘he downscaling is very hard. I thought that the press would give up on me. I wanted them to giye up on me. But I‘ve still got the Daily Mail desperately hoping I‘m going to fall off my high horse.‘

I can tell he's shouldering some of the hatred that would otherwise have been directed at Tony Blair. And it's a lonely position: being one of the most hated political figures in Britain. So does he have many friends'.’

'l‘ye got very few close friends. But I'm absolutely loyal. 'l‘ony's a friend. And Peter Mandelson: he could probably to his dying day feel that I didn't handle his second resignation well and he came out of it worse than he should have done. and he‘s justified in thinking a lot of that. But he and l are still good friends. Philip (iotlld. David .\lilliband - huge friends. And outside politics. Alex l‘erguson: Sid Young from The .llirror. . .'

The press oilieer has arrived: I've had preeise/y 22 minutes and 5-1 seconds recorded. and I didn 't have the ehanee to get under your skin . . . But there will be others anxious to do that.

As I leave the interview room. two other journalists are waiting neryously to be brought in. Back in the fresh air of Bath Street. it’s raining. I think of Campbell. still singing for his supper. and I resolve to write a piece that doesn’t just tear him apart. Soft.

An Audience with Alastair Campbell is at the King’s Theatre, Glasgow, Sun 9 May.



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