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Tony Blair’s longtime former spin doctor, Alastair Campbell, says British politics has abandoned the middle ground and warns that the Labour Party and its supporters must fight grimly to avoid an election wipe-out at the hands of Theresa May.
Mr Campbell, who helped steer “New Labour” to three successive election victories from 1997 under Mr Blair, said current Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn lacked the broad appeal to win the June 8 election but the “personality cult” the Conservative Party had built around leader Ms May was overblown.
“I don’t find her impressive as a leader who understands the modern world,” Mr Campbell told Fairfax Media in an interview from his home in London.
“The whole thing is being built around her. They’ve tried to construct a cult of personality around a non-person. She is not a Margaret Thatcher or a Barack Obama. She’s not a Bob Hawke or a Paul Keating.”
Mr Campbell – whose rugged approach to politics inspired the creation of foul-mouthed fictional spin doctor Malcolm Tucker in the British series The Thick of It – will vote Labour despite doubts about Mr Corbyn’s leadership and severe differences with his supporters.
“I’m not going to claim he’s a great leader, because he’s not,” he said. “But we do have to do what we can to stop [Ms May] getting a massive landslide.
“I’m tribally, viscerally Labour. I spent my whole life trying to smash the Tories, but the most abuse I get on social media comes from Corbyn supporters.”
Mr Campbell said the critical centre ground “feels homeless” in this election.
“There is no doubt our politics is in a mess in Britain; the only choice is a hard Brexit Tory party or Labour which is openly, defiantly left of Blair and [Gordon] Brown, and left of the middle ground,” he said.
“Those people who were persuaded away from the Tories or the Liberal Democrats in 1997 have no one [from Corbyn’s Labour] saying we want you in the team.”
He spoke to Fairfax Media before two significant moments in the campaign: a surprise narrowing in the polls towards Labour, and the Manchester bombing, which swung momentum back to the Tories.
Ms May is polling 25 per cent ahead of her rival on who voters believe will keep them safe from terrorism.
Mr Campbell remains close to Mr Blair and recently interviewed him on camera for GQ magazine, asking his former boss what it was like to go from being “very popular to somewhat toxic and in some parts of the world hated?”
Mr Blair replied: “Yes, it’s hard.”
Mr Campbell told Fairfax Media that Mr Blair had become politically active again during the Brexit campaign – in which they both fought for “Remain” – but was unlikely ever to rejoin politics.
“The level of toxicity might just be too much,” he said.
Mr Campbell arrives in Australia in June to conduct a series of “masterclasses” in Sydney and Melbourne for Connect Media Group.
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