Are you happy? Does it matter?

Increasingly, governments seem to think so. As the UK government conducts its first happiness survey, Alastair Campbell looks at happiness as a political as well as a personal issue; what it should mean to us, what it means to him. Taking in economic and political theories, he questions how happiness can survive in a grossly negative media culture, and how it could inform social policy. But happiness is also deeply personal. Campbell, who suffers from depression, looks in the mirror and finds a bittersweet reflection, a life divided between the bad and not-so-bad days, where the highest achievements in his professional life could leave him numb, and he can somehow look back on a catastrophic breakdown twenty-five years ago as the best thing that happened to him. He writes too of what he has learned from the recent death of his best friend, further informing his view that the pursuit of happiness is a long game. It was originally published as part of the “Brain Shots” series, the pre-eminent source for high-quality, short-form digital non-fiction.

Alastair Campbell was born in Keighley, Yorkshire, in 1957, the son of a vet. After graduating from Cambridge University with a degree in modern languages, his first chosen career was journalism, principally with the Mirror Group. Campbell worked for Tony Blair – first as press secretary, then as official spokesman and director of communications and strategy – from 1994 to 2003, since when he has been mainly engaged in writing, public speaking, consultancy and charity work. He returned to help Labour in the 2005 and 2010 elections. He is an ambassador for the Time to Change campaign to break down stigma and taboo surrounding mental illness. His interests include running, cycling, playing the bagpipes and following the varying fortunes of Burnley Football Club.