What do Gordon Brown and Alastair Campbell have in common this week?

They’re both talking about depression. A-ha-ha. (Actually I was in PMQs – for the first time in my life – last Wednesday when Gordon made his slip-up; nobody noticed at the time. I mean, I didn’t because I was congratulating myself on knowing what ‘fiscal stimulus’ means; but Cameron said nothing either.)

But more to the point. As a Blairphobic I’ve always been somewhat frightened of Alastair Campbell, and when I happened across his novel in the Arndale Waterstone’s I picked it up mostly out of curiosity. 

It turned out to be…an imperfect novel, and somewhat deserving of its nomination for the Bad Sex Awards. But its depiction of a variety of mental illness was fascinating and insightful, and the cover was splashed with accolades from Stephen Fry (famous manic depressive) and Anne Robinson (famous recovered alcoholic). The psychotic episode towards the novel’s close is terrifying – even more so if we’re meant to believe the author has experienced anything like it himself.

Campbell is on Newsnight in a bit (put BBC2 on, quick – it’s a bit dull at the moment, though, bankers and businessmen are blaming the government for having let them get away with it all these years. Sign this) talking about the ‘A World Without’ report he has co-authored for the Time To Change campaign. It’s about famous and important figures of history who have suffered mental health problems, as 1 in 4 people do – Churchill, Lincoln, Darwin, Florence Nightingale and Marie Curie (nice gender balance there) – and whether the world would have accepted them if we’d known about their mental ill health.

The Time To Change campaign is vital – especially, I think, for young people. ‘Mental’ as an insult may be the last non-taboo – more acceptable even than ‘gay’ – and mental health problems are surrounded by fear and misunderstanding incomparable to almost any other social separation in modern British society. The decision of Campbell, Stephen Fry and others to ‘come out’ about their illness – and to ‘reclaim’ long-dead sufferers for the cause – will, I hope, go a long way to help.

5 thoughts on “What do Gordon Brown and Alastair Campbell have in common this week?

  1. I did notice the D word at the time, but then forgot about it in all the drama of PMQs. Surprising that Cameron didn’t pick up on it, really. Either way, PMQs is such a ridiculous pantomime. We should focus on what our leaders are doing in these difficult times, rather than how good they are at hurling sound bites at each other.

    And I’m very much pleased as a reader of this blog to be in such distinguished company!

  2. Actually, on the off chance that you happen to see these follow up comments, we would love to hear you speak to York University Labour Club. We’ve got Hilary Benn coming this week, and high profile speakers always get a very good turn out.


    1. Matthew, stop being such a suck-up.

      Actually I though last week’s PMQs was even more literally pantomime-like than usual: it featured Cameron telling Brown to ‘look behind you’ because, he said, his backbenchers agreed with the opposition – whereupon of course all said backbenchers started shouting ‘oh, no we don’t!’ Classic.

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