Campbell studied French and German at Gonville & CaiusUniversity of Salford Press Office / Flickr

Political strategist Alastair Campbell has revealed that he felt “out of place” and suffered from anxiety during his time at Cambridge.

Speaking on Thursday’s episode of ‘The Rest is Politics’, the podcast he co-presents with former Tory MP Rory Stewart, the Cambridge alum was asked if he had any advice for a “university student who struggles immensely with anxiety and worrying”.

When asking the question to Tony Blair’s former spokesman, Stewart said: “You were pretty miserable at Cambridge weren’t you?”

Campbell responded that he was “pretty miserable,” attributing his excessive drinking at the time to suffering with depression and anxiety, but not “want[ing] to admit it”.

Campbell studied French and German at Gonville & Caius, where he obtained a 2:1. Before this, he attended Bradford Grammar School for a short time, followed by City of Leicester Boys’ Grammar School.

He explained that his “problem” at Cambridge was that when he arrived, he was “meeting sorts of people [he’d] never met before”.

Although cautious not to label it as “imposter syndrome,” he admits that because privately educated Cambridge students at the time “were noisier and looked more at ease with themselves and more comfortable,” this made him “immediately” feel “very very out of place”.

“I felt like I didn’t really belong here,” he said.

He further clarified that he “didn’t particularly want to belong”, which he admits is “not a very good attitude when you’re about to spend 4 years there”.

He joked to his co-host, a former Etonian and Oxford alumnus, that this is “maybe where my loathing for private education comes from”.


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In 1986, following a nervous breakdown on a political tour of Scotland, Campbell realised that he had an alcohol problem. From that point, he committed to counting each consecutive day that he went without alcohol, and didn’t stop until he reached the thousands, he said.

He advised listeners suffering from anxiety “to not get hooked on the drink, try to keep fit, try to sleep well”.

Campbell is best known for his various political roles during Tony Blair’s leadership of the Labour Party and was Political Editor at the Daily Mirror newspaper in the 1980s.