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Never Really Left is the first of four new volumes of diaries from Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s former chief press secretary and director of communications and strategy.
It begins in 2003, where the previous instalment, The Burden of Power, ended, with Campbell’s departure from Downing Street. Despite having left government, Campbell’s level of involvement barely abated: he continued to advise Blair – and later Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband – and played a key role in every election campaign since.
The diaries open as Lord Hutton prepares to publish his report, sparking a huge crisis for the BBC. But any joy in No. 10 is dwarfed by continuing difficulties in Iraq. Meanwhile the Blair–Brown relationship is fracturing almost beyond repair and Campbell is tasked by both with devising a plan that will enable the two men to come together to fight a united election campaign.
Away from politics, the diaries talk frankly about Campbell’s continued struggles with mental health issues, as well as his work in sport and his return to journalism as he tries to find a new purpose in life.