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Alastair Campbell’s diary: Britain deserves a change in government

Meanwhile, in Newark, Robert Jenrick appears to fancy himself as future Tory leader

Image: Getty/TNE

Hopefully, some of you are reading this as first-time subscribers, tempted by the offer of not one but two free signed books to join the New European family. Therefore now, for just a quid a week, you can enjoy an antidote to the biased, populist, nationalist media BS that has helped the Tories get the country into the mess it’s in.

So welcome, and apologies if my signature is a messy scrawl, but by the end of the signing session, the pen had taken on a life of its own, and the pain in my wrist was on a par with what comes at the end of a marathon bagpiping session, such as those I enjoyed in Stuttgart ahead of Scotland’s heartbreaking defeat to Hungary.

The signing took place in a distribution centre in Aylesbury, Bucks – a place I don’t know well because it doesn’t have a Football League team and because it has always been so safe for the Tories that it was deemed something of a waste of Labour time, energy and resources to go there.

It last had a non-Conservative MP before my Dad was born, a Liberal named Thomas Keens, but the natural order was restored a year later, exactly a century ago, in 1924, when Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Alan Hughes Burgoyne won it back as a Conservative Unionist.

So, all my life, and all of your life unless you have topped 100, Aylesbury has been an ultra-safe Tory constituency. The current MP, Rob Butler, has a majority of over 17,000. And yet… strange things are happening out there.

En route, I remembered that the Labour candidate was a friend and former colleague, Laura Kyrke-Smith. We fixed a time to meet up and do a bit of campaigning. I also checked in with Labour HQ, to find out how they assessed her chances, and also with the betting markets (no, I don’t bet, but the betting market can sometimes give a better indication than polls of what is happening in politics.) And guess what, she has a 60% chance of pulling it off.

It was the same story the next day when I visited Ken Clarke’s old constituency, Rushcliffe, to campaign for my nephew Jamie Naish. He too is in with a shout.

What I can say about both, having known them for so long, in Jamie’s case all his life, is that if there is some kind of Tory wipeout, they really will help Keir Starmer’s attempt to return the central theme of politics to public service. Last week’s TNE front cover, and its ghoulish portrayal of the Tories who have been so prominent in the national life of late, was a grim reminder of how much it is needed.

My third campaign stop of the weekend was Newark, where Labour candidate Saj Ahmad is seeking to overturn an enormous 21,816 majority belonging to Robert Jenrick, who in Thatcher’s day might have been a parliamentary aide to a minister of state, but in today’s Tory Party fancies himself as a future leader. The mood around Newark was overwhelmingly of the “Time for a change” variety. If Jenrick goes, we really are in Superdefeat territory. Heaven knows they deserve it.

The two books, Alastair Campbell Talks Politics (for teenagers and young adults) and Why Politics Matters (for primary schoolchildren) came out a week apart, with book two published this Thursday, election day. Already they are having the educative effect I hoped for, though not always in the way I expected.

On Instagram, a man called Martin Johnson posted a picture of book one, explaining that he gave it to his son Herbie and, when he asked him later what he learned from reading it, got the reply: “Did you know that Keir Starmer’s dad was a toolmaker?” Indeed he did. Now Herbie does too.

That Jill Biden loves her husband, and that the feeling is mutual, is evident to anyone who has spent time in their company. Which is why I found her reaction to his TV debate performance, acting as cheerleader-in-chief, if anything even more alarming than the president’s stumbling, mumbling, bumbling performance against the lying narcissistic crook seeking to wrestle back the presidency.

When you’ve been in politics as long as Joe Biden has, and risen as high as he has risen, the chances are you have very few real friends who will tell you the absolute truth, regardless of any personal or political agenda they might have. That is why family is so important. Away from the cameras, I hope that Jill and the rest of the family are giving him a very different message to the one she gave as she welcomed him back from the debate into a room of cheering supporters. Biden’s performance went well beyond the effects of a bad cold. It was truly alarming. I didn’t just see an 81-year-old man struggling at times to make sense; I saw the 85-year-old man we will have at the end of a second term if he wins.

He has been an amazing public servant over many decades, he did the world a huge service by beating Trump last time out, and has a good record as president. But given a Trump return puts democracy itself in peril, not to mention security in Europe and beyond, he cannot afford to be an increaser rather than a decreaser of that risk. Because the world cannot afford it.

If his last act of public service was to step down as Democrat candidate, and help find the best “stop Trump” contender to replace him, who went on to win on November 5, it would be a crowning achievement in an already great career.

The 2020 presidential election was the last time I stayed up all night, very much a young person’s game, and at 67 that is a label that no longer applies. At least then I was at home, stretched out on my sofa. On election night, my all-nighter will be in the Channel 4 studio, where Rory Stewart and I will be giving our analysis as the results come in.

I do hope you will join us. Krishnan Guru-Murthy and Emily Maitlis will be hosting, and a wide array of really excellent guests are lined up to join us through the night. Oh, and Nadine Dorries. That may have to be when I go for a pee.

After all, I thought the whole point of getting me and Rory involved was that it was time to get serious about politics again, and I am afraid that someone who continues to think Boris Johnson was a great prime minister, and indeed that he should never have left, simply does not fall into that category.

A question: Why is Andrew Bingham, a former Tory MP, head of the Government Car Service? Answer: because in the past 14 years, the Tories have been packing government bodies large and small with their own kind. This is just one of many examples.

If Labour win on Thursday, most civil servants will welcome a change of government because it has been soul-destroying to work amid such a shambles; it’s why so many have left. But some who have stayed will be there to help the Tories not the country, and new ministers need to be alive to who they are.

Like the private secretary who is a regular guest of the ludicrous “Lord” David Frost.

PS: The incoming minister is aware… I just told him.

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See inside the OK.. now get on with it edition

Image: TNE

Lie of the Week: “Labour’s national ULEZ: coming to a road near you this July”

Image: TNE

The world is poised on the edge

As populism tries to pull the EU apart and Donald Trump threatens Europe’s security, Keir Starmer will face the challenge of resetting the UK’s role in the continent and the wider world