(Reuters) - Alastair Campbell, Prime Minister Tony Blair’s spokesman when Britain went to war with Iraq in 2003, appeared Tuesday before a public inquiry seeking to learn lessons from the conflict.
Following are some key facts about Campbell:
-- A former political editor at the left-leaning Mirror newspaper, Campbell was hired by then opposition leader Blair in 1994 and the two quickly became inseparable. Political commentators often referred to him as “the real deputy prime minister.”
-- Campbell became Blair’s Director of Communications and Strategy from 2001 formerly having been his press secretary. But his role extended far beyond media management. He sat in on cabinet meetings and talked with heads of state and wrote many of Blair’s speeches.
-- He announced his resignation as Blair’s top aide in August 2003, after he was accused in a BBC report of inserting a claim in a September 2002 dossier that Iraq could launch banned weapons at just 45 minutes’ notice.
-- A report by parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee criticized the inclusion of the 45-minute point as “unhelpful to the understanding of the issue,” but cleared Campbell or anyone else of political interference in the dossier.
-- The claim Campbell had “sexed up” intelligence, made by BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan, led to a furious row between the government and the broadcaster and culminated in the source of the story, weapons expert David Kelly, being thrust into the limelight. Kelly was found dead with a slashed wrist in July 2003 after being revealed as the source, prompting the government to launch an inquiry headed by Lord Hutton into his death.
-- The first conclusion by the Hutton inquiry was that he was satisfied Kelly had taken his own life and that none of the players in this saga could have foreseen that he would do so. Hutton ruled that the prime minister’s office bore no blame for Kelly’s death.
-- Campbell returned to the Labor Party for six months prior to the 2005 general election and continues to advise the party informally.
-- Campbell was born in Yorkshire in May 1957, the son of a vet. His family moved to Leicester in 1968, and he went to school there until going to Cambridge University in 1975.
-- He graduated four years later with a degree in modern languages. His university education included a year in France when he had his first “journalism” published, articles on sex in Forum magazine. He also busked around the world with bagpipes.
-- He decided to become a journalist and trained with the Mirror Group on local papers in the West Country before joining the Mirror itself in 1982.
-- By the age of 29 Campbell became news editor of tabloid newspaper Today, but the publication failed and the pressure drove him to heavy drinking and a nervous breakdown.
-- He is a dedicated runner and competed in the London marathon, the Great North Run, the Great Ethiopian Run, and completed several full triathlons, all for the Leukemia Research Fund.
-- In 2007, he published his first book on his time with Tony Blair, “The Blair Years,” extracts from his diaries from 1994 to 2003 and published his first novel, “All In The Mind,” in November 2008.