Alastair Campbell Interview

alastair51 year-old strategist and writer Alastair Campbell was instrumental in forming New Labour, and winning the landslide 1997 election. He became Labour’s Director of Communications and Strategy before resigning in 2003. He is now Chairman of Fundraising for Leukaemia Research, for whom he competed in last week’s Artemis Challenge at Cowes Week.


What is the first charity you can remember supporting?

As I child I raised a little money for the veterinary charity PDSA, because my dad was a vet.

When did you make your first substantial donation?

In 2002. I took up marathon running and decided I could raise a lot of sponsorship using my public profile. It was a toss-up between Mind [the mental health charity], due my mental breakdown in 1986, and Leukaemia Research because my best friend, John Merritt, died from leukaemia in 1992, followed six years later by his nine year-old daughter Ellie. I chose Leukaemia.

Which cause do you feel most passionately about?

The Labour Party, Burnley Football Club, and Leukaemia Research.

Is it more important to give time than money?

Although I’ve raised over £2 million for Leukaemia Research, I think Chief Executive Cathy Gilman would say that my time, my profile, and the contacts I make for the charity are more important. For example, Cathy asked me to switch from marathons to triathlon. My team – the Leukaemia Research Banana Army – is now the UK’s biggest triathlon team. The next massive project is for Leukaemia Research’s 50th anniversary in 2010. Beginning in 2009, I’m fronting a campaign to get 50 corporate partnerships worth £50,000 each.

How do you ensure your giving is used effectively?

I did a piece for BBC on the foundation of Leukaemia Research, and saw the progress from the charity’s work. In 50 years, the chance of surviving childhood leukaemia has gone from virtually zero to nine out of 10. So, by actually getting involved, knowing the people there, and trusting them, I know how hard they work to keep costs down, and I know that they really care. The Chief Exec, for example, started volunteering because she lost a relative to leukaemia.

What percentage of our income should we give to charity?

As a general rule, the more you have, the more you give.

Are you an impulse giver or do you only make planned donations?

If I see someone in the street I’d give to them, but I only give sizeable donations to Leukaemia Research and the Labour Party.

What do you get out of your giving?

I get to meet great people and do amazing things. I really really enjoyed the Artemis Ocean Racing at Cowes, for example. One of things I loved about politics, despite all the frustrations, was the idea that we were working as a team. So I’ve really enjoyed being part of the team at Leukaemia Research. I also think that, when something terrible happens, it’s very human to want to do something to make it less likely.

For Artemis Ocean Challenge, see

For Leukaemia Research,