The bleak new world order
Alistair Campbell has been behind a lot of winning political campaigns. The most famous was Labour’s election in 1997. He has, quite literally, written the book on winners and how they succeed.
Yet the master spin doctor fears he is losing his touch. He was involved in the Remain campaign. He helped Hillary Clinton. He was working with the former French President Hollande – “until he hit 4% in the polls and he decided it was time to throw in the towel. Four percent globally is the percentage of the population that believes Elvis Presley is alive.”
The unexpected rise of populism, fake news and post truth has been a bitter pill for Campbell. “I feel like my worst enemy gave me three boxsets a while back and I am being forced to watch them every day. Brexit, Trump, Corbyn. It is not making me happy.”
People are looking for someone authentic who they can trust, who will tell them the truth, he believes. Yet paradoxically, they have voted for Brexit on the basis of false promises, like the extra £350 million a week that Brexit would supposedly free up for the NHS.
I feel like my worst enemy gave me three boxsets a while back and I am being forced to watch them every day. Brexit, Trump, Corbyn
“Then you look at Trump. Trump said or did 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 things during the course of the campaign that I promise you would have killed any other candidate in any other era. When we say we want truth from our leaders, is that true any more?
“The liars do appear to have been rewarded. Is the liar hounded? No, he becomes Foreign Secretary. Trump becomes president,” sighed Campbell.
Emmanuel Macron’s recent victory in the French election is a sign of how fragile politics have become, he argued. “It is defined as a landslide, but a third of people who voted, voted for a neo fascist in France.”
The driving factors in today’s political environment are anger and fear, according to Campbell. “Anger that globalisation seems to help some people more than others.”
There is anger and fear that an elite section of society seems to be making decisions on behalf of the rest of it, he observed. Fear is that the trend will keep going in the same direction, he said. “And so what are the responses going to be? Shut the borders. Build a wall. Find enemies and blame a scapegoat.”
There is a fear that machines are replacing traditional jobs, old skills are dying and this is creating inequality, he said.
Coupled with the pace of change is the continued reverberations of the global financial crisis. “I think the global financial crisis is key to this. This feeling that the people who caused the crash got away with it and a lot of other people paid the price. That feeling your kids are not going to be as well off as you. That is a strong driver of all this.”
These drivers have led to the election of Donald Trump, which Campbell views with alarm. “I don’t want to make too much of this, but it did take Hitler several years before he started turning on journalists. Trump’s well ahead of the game.”