Alastair Campbell is chairman of fundraising for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research, and has personally raised well over seven figures for the charity through sport and other events. He chose the charity because his best friend, former Mirror colleague John Merritt, died of leukaemia in 1992. John’s daughter Ellie died from the same disease six years later, aged nine. When he took up running in 2002, he decided to do the 2003 London Marathon for the charity, whilst still working in Downing Street. He raised half a million pounds. He has since switched to triathlon and is now captain of the Leukaemia Research triathlon team, the biggest in the country. For several years he has presented the charity’s annual sports awards, and co-hosted with his agent Ed Victor – a leukaemia survivor – a series of arts events attracting entertainers as varied as Mel Brooks, Stephen Fry, Billy Connolly, Kevin Spacey and Michael Palin.
To coincide with the charity’s 50th anniversary, he made a short film for the BBC on the moving story of how – through one family’s determination to remember a little girl – the charity started, and has grown. Where once childhood leukaemia was a death sentence, now there is a 90 per cent chance of survival, in large part thanks to research funded by the charity.
Alastair is also heavily involved in mental health charities. He is an ambassador for Time to Change, the campaign to break down the stigma and taboo of mental illness, and has worked for both Mind and Rethink. He was voted Mind Champion of the Year for 2009, following an award winning documentary on his breakdown in 1986. He has written a novel around themes of mental illness, All In The Mind, which is to be made into a TV series, and a personal account of depression, The Happy Depressive.