Having read the first 80 pages of Alastair Campbell's diaries I have two reactions. The first is that it's a brilliant read and I can't wait to read the rest of it on the plane to Rwanda on Thursday, but the second is that if it is an accurate reflection of the life of a newly opposition leader and his inner circle I a) feel very sorry for the people around David Cameron and b) feel very relieved DD didn't win!
I don't think anyone understand the pressures on political leaders and their advisers. Why should they? But it is clear that even after only a year in the job Campbell's relationship with his partner was at breaking point. She accused him of being obsessive and only concerned with 'TB'. The trouble is that if you're in a close knit political circle you do tend to have no life outside that circle. Those closest to you feel excluded and understandably react badly. Relationships which aren't strong do not always survive.
The picture Alastair Campbell paints of Tony Blair during his first year as leader is not a wholly positive one. He comes across as someone with an uncontrollable temper, prone to incoherant rants and not always clear on strategy. Campbell describes him as someone who treats his staff poretty badly, never says thank you to any of them and expects total devotion and loyalty. The thing is, he got it too. And that's part of what being a leader of people is about - commanding respect and loyalty even when you don't deserve it.
The two violent incidents which Campbell describes well involve Mandelson and Kinnock. Mandelson actually swung two punches at Campbell and Blair and to separate them - Mandelson goes up in my opinion. And then on a holiday in France Neil Kinnock launches into a violent tirade against Campbell accusing him and Blair of selling out, particualrly to Rupert Murdoch - "how do you think you'd fell if you had your head in a lightbulb?" - he rants. Campbell then thought he was about to get a kettle full of boiling water chucked at him. And this is the man who wanted to be Prime Minister.
As you can tell, I am thoroughly enjoying the book (which I can read in the happy knowledge that I didn't pay for it and therefore haven't contributed to the Alastair Campbell retirement fund)