For the second interview in our series, we sat down to discuss obsessions, inspired thinking, and optimism for the next generation with one of Rankin’s own personal inspirations: writer, communicator, and strategist, Alastair Campbell.
Best known for his role as former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s spokesman, press secretary and director of communications and strategy, this month sees Campbell bring his political expertise to the new Channel 4 series ‘Make Me Prime Minister’, where he appears as co-host and judge alongside Baroness Sayeeda Warsi. The six-part series sees 12 ordinary - albeit opinionated - Brits with views from across the political spectrum compete in a series of challenges to see what it really takes to succeed in the cutthroat world of politics.
What has been the biggest lightbulb moment in your career?
It was probably in 1986 when I was in a psychiatric ward, having had a psychotic breakdown. I had a realisation that the problems that had got me there were created by me, and not by other people.
Where do you look for inspiration?
I look for inspiration in the younger generation. I’m working on a book, and I’m writing a chapter about Greta Thunberg. She inspires me. It’s not even about who she is and what she believes, but that she’s shown the absolute nonsense of people who say that one person can’t make a difference. I see lots of young people who depress me because they don’t care and aren’t interested, but I do also see a lot of young people who really inspire me.
What’s your weirdest obsession?
I’m a very obsessional character. My weirdest obsession is probably the fact that I can’t be anywhere near ketchup. It’s actually a condition called Mortuusequusphobia. If I’m in a restaurant and I see someone spraying ketchup all over their food, I just have to close my eyes. I can’t look at it. If it’s on the table, I have to ask somebody to move it, because I can’t touch it myself, it’s a bit weird, and it’s an obsession. I think it’s to do with blood — I’m quite squeamish.
What’s one piece of advice you live by?
I try to live by this: focus on sleep, diet and exercise.
What do you think is the key to understanding people?
Listening to them, and learning to read them — especially their eyes. We all make mistakes about people, but I do think I’m quite good at reading people now. You genuinely do have to listen, and this is the other thing that Rory Stewart and I talk about, a lot of politicians stop listening. When they become senior politicians, they just go on broadcast mode the whole time. I’m on broadcast mode a lot of the time when I’m in an argument, but if I’m out and about, I do really try to listen.
Read Alastair Campbell’s full interview with HUNGER magazine here.
Join us next month as we sit down with Asma Khan - chef and founder of Darjeeling Express, the only Indian restaurant in the world run by all women - to discuss creativity, finding inspiration, and the lightbulb moments that shaped her.
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