3 Jul 2014

Alastair Campbell: Egypt hasn’t paid me a penny

The Prince Of Wales And Duchess Of Cornwall Attend A Memorial Service For Sir David Frost

As ever, an illuminating conversation with one A Campbell this morning, as he ordered his morning latte and granola bars or something along those lines, en route to the Tour de France on what for him is very much the wrong side of the Pennines.

First off, a flat denial that he is in the pay of the Sisi regime to spin for them: “I have not had a penny from the government of Egypt.”

But he said he had been to Egypt and had met and talked to government officials there – as well as many other people – on a variety of issues.

“I went to Egypt. I was paid to be there – but not by the government. It was something completely different. Yes, I did talk to government people, I talked to opposition people, I talked to all kinds of people.”

He conveyed the strong impression of someone who does not want his name “mixed up in all this” on the one hand – but who also passionately believes we should be talking to and engaged with the Cairo junta.

“Should the West and other powers understand the significance of what’s going on in Egypt? Yes they should.

“Non-engagement would not be desirable at all.

“If a member of the Egyptian government phones me up – and I am not saying that this has happened – and said what do you think about such and such, if I talk to them, is that being an advisor?”

I said yes, it is, particularly if you are being paid for it – which he insists he is not.

But as ever, he is a man of strong opinions who says he is deeply interested in what is happening in Cairo and beyond:

“The Muslim Brotherhood, ” he said ” were a complete bloody disaster” for the country.

Equally, he said, David Cameron and William Hague were quite right to condemn the imprisoning of the three Al Jazeera journalists.

“Of course they should be freed. As a general principle imprisoning journalists is not a good thing to do. Cameron and Hague were right to condemn putting journalists in prison. But you can’t just not talk to the guy who has been elected.”

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