On his BBC Andrew Marr interview this morning (Sunday), Alastair Campbell paused significantly for breath and in order to constrain tears when asked about Tony Blair’s honesty. For The Evening Standard‘s Paul Waugh this was a repeat of Campbell’s C4 moment, when the latter stormed the studio shortly before the news and demanded to be allowed on, then subsequently took part abrasively in an interview with Jon Snow. Campbell’s clearly a man capable of high emotion, surprisingly human to some, yet he’s also a master of media management. Today’s moment was not a repeat of the C4 moment, it was its antithesis, in some ways even the antidote.
Campbell’s selling a book now. And it looks like he might in future join the ranks of journalists who have gone on to have very successful careers as authors (a la his mate, the excellent writer Robert Harris). A lot of people have great respect for Campbell’s professional skills, yet those very skills have made him (unfairly, I think) hated by a lot of people who might otherwise buy his books. He has to soften the latter if he’s going to be successful as a public personality in his own right. That means making a virtue of necessity. He made a big point of stressing ‘authenticity’ in his interview – a major theme in social media and, actually, in real life for most folk. So he allowed his emotional side to come through in a way more helpful to his own interest. Not the blustering and aggressive (for a journo) emotional bloke, but the sensitive and thoughtful emotional bloke, easier to like, easier to enjoy his books.
So, three things from the Alastair Campbell interview. First, the emotional bit will ensure huge coverage. Second, his book’s going to get that too and people might start to like Campbell a bit more. Third, OK, I’ll probably buy the goddamn thing and contribute to his superannuation fund. And I bet a lot of you will too!