'Tony Blair came up in therapy a lot': Alastair Campbell's daughter blames former PM for jealousy issues

James Morris
·Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
·5-min read

Watch: Tony Blair was a regular feature in my therapy sessions Grace Campbell

Alastair Campbell one of the most infamous political figures of the late 1990s and early 2000s.

As Tony Blair’s press secretary and director of communications, he was a key influence in the New Labour government, including its decision to involve the UK in the Iraq War.

Long after leaving Downing Street, he has remained a divisive public figure, notably as a spearhead of the failed campaign to stop Brexit.

His expulsion from the Labour Party in 2019, after saying he voted for the anti-Brexit Liberal Democrats in the European elections, was a major story in itself.

But all this, of course, is well documented. We know all about his politics.

What we know less about is how his politics – including his relationship with Blair himself – has driven the dynamics in his personal and family life.

The Prime Minister's official spokesperson Alistair Campbell peers out of the Prime Minister's vehicle as they leave the Eden Court Theatre in Inverness after the Prime Minister delivered his speech to the Scottish Labour Party conference in the Highland city.  *  and in the wake of the publication of the Hammond Inquiry. Former Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson and Europe Minister Keith Vaz were today cleared by the Hammond Inquiry of any improper conduct over the Hinduja passport affair. Mr Mandelson resigned from the government in January over the affir. 8/6/01:  Campbell, the no-nonsense official spokesman of British Prime Minister Tony Blair (right), who has confirmed he would be taking more of a behind-the-scenes role.   Mr Campbell, who for four years has held an iron-like grip on the daily message from Downing Street, said his role
Alastair Campbell and Tony Blair in 2001. (PA)

On Yahoo UK’s White Wine Question Time with Kate Thornton, though, we got an insight as he appeared on the podcast with his daughter, the comedian Grace Campbell...

‘Blair comes up in my therapy’

Both father and daughter are well known for speaking out about mental health.

And Grace Campbell has no hesitation mentioning how Blair has come up in her past therapy sessions.

Growing up, she says, her father’s dedication to the former prime minister left Grace feeling like she was “having to compete with Tony”.

“It’s why I’m always very jealous of my boyfriends talking to other women: Tony Blair. That’s who I blame. That’s why I have such bad issues with jealousy, that’s what my therapist says.”

Grace and Alastair Campbell (Getty Images)
Grace and Alastair Campbell (Getty Images)

She says Blair's name mainly came up "at the beginning".

"Not really anymore because I'm over it and the world's over Tony Blair as well. He's so irrelevant now. But when I started doing therapy... it was a lot.

"It had a lot of impact on my relationship with jealousy and insecurities, and my relationship with myself, and wanting desperately to be a man, and be like men, and be someone that my dad would give that level of attention to.

"Be like Tony Blair but also compete with Tony Blair. It gave me this really weird complex where at all times I’m incredibly arrogant and insecure at the same time, at all times."

She has talked to Blair himself about this, adding, possibly tongue-in-cheek, “he finds it hilarious”.

Blair: the third person in Alastair Campbell's relationship?

Blair's name also comes up in Alastair Campbell's therapy. "A lot," he says.

Thornton puts to him: "Your therapist said actually that your conversation around Tony was indicative of the fact that, in your relationship with Fiona [his partner], there was a third person he was so present."

He says of this: "He also said, and there's definitely something in this... it's not a third person... but if you're married to a headteacher of a school you're trying to turn around, that headteacher's going to be on it all the time.

"And even when they're at home at the weekend, they're thinking about it. I think there's a lot relationships like that, they don't have to be in high-profile political jobs."

‘Brexit saved my relationship’

Alastair Campbell, for all he is known to have fought against Brexit, actually credits the UK’s departure from the EU for helping save his relationship with Fiona.

The relationship had been put under strain over his influence behind the Iraq War, Grace tells the podcast.

Alastair Campbell, former director of communications for Tony Blair plays the bagpipes as he demonstrates outside the Houses of Parliament in central London on April 8, 2019. - British Prime Minister Theresa May will meet with German and French leaders Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron as she scrambles to find a Brexit breakthrough ahead of Wednesday's crucial EU summit. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP) (Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images)
Alastair Campbell plays the bagpipes at an anti-Brexit demonstration outside the Houses of Parliament in April 2019. (AFP via Getty Images)

“I always say the Iraq War nearly broke up my parents and then Brexit brought them back together. And that’s why they’re in such a good place now, because my parents' relationship is – a lot of it they bond over politics and anger towards what is happening.

"So I would say for him, politics has been the worst of times and the best of times."

Alastair says: “The Iraq period was very hard for all sorts of reasons. I never thought we’d break up. But we could have done.

“Brexit has definitely… we do have pretty much near identical views on just how bad it is for the country and the world.”

'I left politics because of the pressures I was putting on the children'

Alastair Campbell, who has not been involved in frontline politics since working on Labour's campaign in the 2005 general election, is lambasted by his daughter after he complains about the likes of Boris Johnson and Priti Patel.

"Just to expel that much energy about something that you have no control over," Grace says, "I think is quite unhealthy."

Her father disagrees – and adds it was her mother's influence which led him to leave politics.

Listen: The full White Wine Question Time podcast with Alastair and Grace Campbell

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"I don’t agree that just because you don’t go a certain route it means you suddenly have to sort of pipe down. And also, maybe if Grace’s mum had not been so insistent about me leaving politics in the first place then you know, life could have been different. Who knows.

"Partly because apparently of all the pressures I was putting on the children. So, I think that I’ll just keep on raging."

He later adds: "Although Fiona at the time was very angry about... me doing the job, she's not a jealous person. It wasn't about jealousy. It was about, genuinely, the impact on her and the family."

Watch: Alastair Campbell says government is full of 'hypocrisy' over Sarah Everard protests