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Alastair Camp bell chooses A une robe rose by Theophile Gautier

Alastair Campbell has become famous as the Press Secretary to Tony Blair. Before that he had a varied career in the media. The son of a Pennine vet, he read Modem Foreign Languages at Cambridge, then entered journalism. By the age of29, he had become the news editor of a newspaper called Sunday Today. His career in the media continued successfully and he soon became political editor of the Daily Mirror.

In 1994 he became Tony Blair 's official spokesman and, in 1997, the Prime Minister 's chief press secretary. With the Labour election victory in 1997, he became the Prime Minister's chief press secretary, setting up a formidable Whitehall machine to put over the government's views and try to control the news agenda. The two men were regarded as very close and his words were often been interpreted as carrying the Prime Minister's full authority.

In 2000 Mr Campbell gave up daily briefings to Westminster lobby journalists to concentrate more on long-term strategy and in August 2003 he resigned from Tony Blair's employment. He took up long-distance running in 2002 and has completed numerous runs to raise funds for Leukaemia Research Fund, his best friend having been killed by the disease. He spends his time making speeches, writing, working for his charity and advising the Prime Minister informally.His partner is Cherie Blair's former adviser, Fiona Miilar.

Alastair Campbell writes: "I love French. More than any other language I think it lends itself to great poetry. That is not to say English is not a wonderful tongue, with some of the greatest poems, but somehow 'how you please me in that dress, that undresses you so well' does not quite have the same effect as the opening line here. Gautier makes every word, every sound, every image work so hard, yet seemingly effortlessly, to create something really powerful, which made a deep impression on me when I first read this as a student. I have chosen it, not just because I like it as a poem, but also because it opened my mind to a deeper understanding of French and also of language more generally, of the ability of words to create, move and inspire."

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