Alastair read modern languages at Cambridge but made money by writing pornographic stories for the men’s magazine Forum before entering journalism.
By the age of 29 he had moved a long way from his roots as the son of a Pennine vet to become the news editor of a newspaper called Today but the publication’s launch faltered and the experience led him to a nervous breakdown.
Campbell is said to have come out of the experience less brash, more disciplined and even more driven in his career. Around the same time he gave up alcohol – a step believed by many to give him the advantage of a clear head 24 hours a day to deal with the media.
He soon became political editor of the Daily Mirror. During this time he was also one of then Labour leader Neil Kinnock’s closest advisers. It was from that post which Mr Campbell resigned to become spokesman for Tony Blair, then leader of the opposition. He was heavily involved with the modernisation of the Labour party, and instrumental in many New Labour ideas such as All Women Shortlists. With the Labour election victory in 1997, he became the prime minister’s chief press secretary, setting up a formidable Whitehall machine to put over the government’s views and try to control the news agenda.
In 2000 Mr Campbell gave up daily briefings to Westminster lobby journalists to concentrate more on long-term strategy. It was a move prompted by the fear that he, rather than his boss, was becoming the focus of media stories.
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