Campbell’s Labour Expulsion: Clever or Plain Stupid?

It would be naïve to assume that Alastair Campbell didn’t orchestrate his own expulsion from the Labour Party. The Machiavellian spin doctor is a master media manipulator – you don’t become Downing Street Director of Communications and Strategy without having a particular set of skills in this regard.

Campbell, 62, admitted to voting for the Liberal Democrats in several media appearances across television and radio platforms last week. This is a clear breach of membership rules for the Labour Party and the punishment is automatic expulsion. On the surface, the case is cut and dry. Campbell was well aware of this, having discussed the prospect with Owen Jones in a previous interview.  

As ever with politics, there is a lot that lies underneath the surface. Campbell is an ardent campaigner for a second referendum, something that has divided the party in recent months. He is also the most senior of “Blairites”, a Labour faction opposed to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, saying that Labour under Corbyn’s rule ‘does his head in’.

The running battle between Labour’s ‘left’ and ‘right’ has been well documented for decades, much like the Conservative implosion around the issue of Europe was brewing long before we’d ever heard the word Brexit. The immediate furore over Campbell’s expulsion was obvious. His allies in the media and the party made sure it was headline news, using it to fashion their own narrative against Jeremy Corbyn. Note the rather more muted reaction to Lord Heseltine’s expulsion from the Conservative Party for committing the exact same crime in the runup to the European elections.

Campbell immediately compared his own expulsion to the party’s handling of anti-Semitism claims, a disgraceful act of whataboutery that only serves to undermine the party leadership and further weaponise the real issues that need to be dealt with.

Expulsions are dealt with on a case-by-case basis, and allegations of anti-Semitism need time and resources in order to be resolved properly. Voting for the Lib Dems is not on the same level as these cases and will evidently be dealt with much quicker (automatically, per the rulebook). Of course, Campbell is aware of this. It is a grimly ironic twist that the man who worked so hard to keep himself out of the headlines in the late 1990s is now desperate to be the centre of attention. His deliberate self-expulsion was calculated to do maximum damage to the reputation of the current Labour leadership, allowing Deputy Leader of the Labour Party Tom Watson to vie for position in terms of policy and possibly leadership. 

It may sound conspiratorial to accuse Campbell of being in cahoots with sections of the British media and certain factions of the party, until you read absolutely anything about the British media.Never has there been a more wretched institution with such incestuous ties to government and politics. Campbell knows it inside out, which is why the “who, me, guv?” act will not wash. The Labour Party would do well to expel a few more of his ilk. 

Image Credit: University of Salford Press Office. An Audience with Alastair Campbell, in conversation with Professor Chris Brady, Salford Business School, University of Salford, MediaCity.