Alastair Campbell on how Brexit helped save his relationship

Jayne Cherrington-Cook
·4-min read

Watch: Grace Campbell talks about how Tony Blair is a regular feature in therapy sessions

If you know anything about Brexit, you'll probably know that one of the most outspoken critics of the campaign to take the UK out of the EU was Tony Blair's former spin doctor, Alastair Campbell.

What you may not know is that Brexit was also instrumental in saving his relationship.

Campbell's daughter, Grace, spent a lot of her childhood in and around Downing Street and says she saw how politics impacted her parents' relationship. 

Speaking on Yahoo UK's White Wine Question Time podcast, the 26-year-old said: “I always say the Iraq war nearly broke up my parents and then Brexit brought them back together.

Describing it as “cute” that her dad and mum, journalist Fiona Millar, had reconnected over Brexit, she said: “They bond over politics and anger towards things that are happening, so I would say for him, politics has been the worst of times and the best of times… And that's why they're in such a good place now!”

Listen: Alastair Campbell talks about why he's feels so much rage for the current government

Campbell, now 62, agrees with his daughter, saying the world of politics had not always been easy for him and his partner of over 40 years.

“I think the Iraq period was very hard for all sorts of reasons,” he admitted.

“I never thought we'd break up but, you know, we could have done. Brexit is definitely… We do have very pretty much near identical views on just how bad it is for the country and for the world!”

Read more: Depression made Alastair Campbell cruel, partner Fiona Millar says

Campbell met Millar while they were both young reporters, and while they have never married, the pair have three children together - Rory, Calum and Grace. Their relationship however has been tested many times, including during Campbell’s breakdown in 1986.

Writing for the Radio Times in 2019, Millar spoke about how difficult it could be living with someone suffering from acute depression.

“There was emotional manipulation and mental cruelty at times,” she wrote about the darker days.

Alastair Campbell, his partner Fiona Millar and their dog Skye join pet owners to take part in an anti Brexit
Alastair Campbell, his partner Fiona Millar and their dog Skye join pet owners to take part in an anti Brexit "Wooferendum" rally in London to protest against Britain leaving the European Union. (photo by Vickie Flores/In Pictures via Getty Images Images)

After recovering from his breakdown, Campbell went on to work closely with Tony Blair for a number of years and was involved in the preparation and release of two controversial dossiers prior to the Iraq war. The pressure of such a high-powered job took its toll on him and Millar, with Blair often being quoted as the ‘third person’ in their relationship.

“There's a lot of relationships like that,” Campbell said.

“They don't have to be in the kind of view big high profile political jobs.”

“If you're married to a head teacher at a school that they’re trying to turn around and that head teacher is going to be on it all the time – and even when they're home at the weekend, they're thinking about it!”

Read more: Just 22% of Brits think Tony Blair was good for Labour

Campbell went on to reveal that his psychiatrist David Sturgeon, who he has been seeing regularly for years, surmised that his relationship with Millar was almost too close.

“He said – and there’s definitely something in this — he felt that, to some extent, Fiona and I were so close, that I felt like she was kind of almost like, an extra limb!” he stated.

“It was always like the thought of us being apart is almost like I'm losing my limbs. I kind of do think that's about right!”

He said that the couple even joke about how he will have to die first as he wouldn’t cope without her!

“She would be fine without me, in terms of running her life,” he exclaimed. “I would be not fine at all!”

Grace and her dad Alastair Campbell do a podcast together called Football, Feminism and Everything In Between (Image: Getty Images)
Grace has not followed her dad into politics and instead is stand-up comedian (Image: Getty Images)

Campbell, who has just published Volume 8 of his memoirs, told Thornton that while his books contain private information about his relationship with Millar and his family, he allows them all to edit as they see fit.

“Fiona and the kids are allowed a bit of a red pen — it would be up to an including ‘No, you can't do the book!’” he explained.

He continued: “Obviously it's mainly political stuff, but in terms of the family, Calum is our second son and he was kind of descending into alcoholism, so there's a lot of that in there. I said to him, ‘Listen, you don't want any of it, you just tell me’ and he was fine. He celebrated yesterday eight years without a drink, thank god!”

Hear Alastair and Grace Campbell talk about their mental health problems in the latest episode of White Wine Question Time. Listen now on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

Watch: Grace Campbell shares her views on modern day feminism