A Response to Alastair Campbell

By Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei,
A Response to Alastair Campbell
Edi Rama, Arrigo Sacchi, Gianni De Biasi, and Alistair Campbell in front of Thomas Demand’s Sign (2015). Source: Facebook.

It appears that Prime Minister Edi Rama has found a new, somewhat jaded constituency to boost his inflated ego onto the “international scene”: the political leftovers of the now widely discredited late-nineties Third-Way labor politics, which not only turned left-wing politics into a largely symbolic effort of “rights” but has led to the privatization wave on which populist and nationalist ressentiment surfed to the shores of the European Union.

In June, former French Minister of Foreign Affairs and former UN Representative in Kosovo Bernard Kouchner wrote an op-ed on “one of the most sophistic political leaders of Europe.” And now it is the turn of the spin doctor of former UK prime minister and war criminal Tony Blair, a man named Alastair Campbell.

Alastair Campbell is not a new face in the pathetic pantheon of Rama’s sycophants. Campbell was involved in Rama’s electoral success in 2013, as he writes in a blog from 2014, in which he also claims that he helped put together a “communications campaign to address corruption within public services.” (The end results of this campaign have by now become visible to all, as Rama has promised “hell” to any public servant crossing the “common people,” and he has summarily and single-handedly fired entire layers of public institutions, without caring about the legal framework the EU helped to put into place.)

But nevertheless, in another piece of vomit-inducing flattery, Campbell has insisted that Rama is a “team player” and a “winner” (just like that other one across the Atlantic). He even wrote about him in a book!

Last week, Campbell had dinner in the Netherlands with Rama and “a group of former Prime Ministers from around Europe, current World Bank advisers, academics, philanthropic organisations, development experts, and communications and strategy advisers.” The first concrete result of this cosy get-together is a rambling blog post, in which Campbell retells the story of how he “reluctantly” became part of Rama’s PR machine and then switches to his warped version of Rama’s electoral victory:

This time, his Socialist Party, again fighting very much on a New Labour policy and positioning platform, has won all on its own, after a suitably tough campaign. This is a country where they serve their politics rare. The election almost never happened as the Opposition Democratic Party threatened to boycott the whole thing, and instead for weeks on end staged loud round-the-clock protests in a huge tent outside Rama’s office. Only some very clever and patient dealing got them to the starting line at all.

In a way it is suitable to describe the complete absence of any meaningful political platform of the Socialist Party during the electoral campaign as “New Labour policy”: empty rhetoric and destruction of the public system. The entire campaign revolved around a metaphorical “baking tray” and the desire to have sole control over the government. The only reason the PS booked its massive victory was because of mass abstention of opposition voters. Never did less people vote in the parliamentary elections.

Also his claim that “the election almost never happened” is blatantly untrue. Nothing in the Electoral Code would have prevented the government from organizing elections, and this option was in fact supported by the EU and US diplomats in the country. Rama’s “very clever” strategy involved allowing the opposition to protest without legal permit for months while actual protestors for the common good a regularly arrested and put to court, whereas the “patient dealing” was done by EU and US negotiators who probably put metaphorical guns to everyone’s head to behave and be a good “stable” country.

Meanwhile, as part of his “New Labour” electoral campaign, Rama refused any type of public debate with the opposition and regularly attacked the free press, as also evidenced by independent international organizations.

But Campbell, who cannot stop putting his tongue where the sun doesn’t shine, goes even further in his praise, with a verbatim copy–paste of all of Rama’s recent post-electoral promises:

Like any European country with optimism and hope for the future, Albania wants to be in the EU, and even the process of preparing for candidate status, and now for accession talks, has been an important driver of the change that is visible to any irregular visitor such as myself. Illegally built buildings have been demolished as a proper land registry is prepared; many gambling dens and cannabis farms shut down; an aggressive campaign to collect tax and prevent the theft of electricity is helping drive the economic numbers in the right direction. New hotels are springing up as the tourism market develops.

First of all, let’s talk about the “optimism and hope for the future.” In 2016, 20% of all illegal immigrants to the EU came from Albania. Is that really a sign of optimism? Campbell claims that “a proper land registry is prepared.” But these are mere promises as Rama tries to introduce a “vetting” procedure for all registrars, an attempt that will no doubt lead to a wave of court cases of those who were illegitimately fired. In spite of his plans, a “proper land registry” remains a pipe dream.

Furthermore, the State Supreme Audit Institution (KLSh) revealed this week that the Gambling Oversight Authority failed to gather ~€378 million in fines of those so-called “gambling dens,” showing the complete failure of the government to regulate the gambling industry. And only yesterday Rama announced yet another “nationwide anti-cannabis action,” this time to really put an end to the problem. Meanwhile, economic numbers are artificially propped up by creative accounting methods and questionable financial instruments.

Also last week, Ksamil, a major tourist destination, was literally flooded in shit while the government and the EU remained utterly silent about the very real threats to public health.

Need I go on? Yes I do:

Overseas investment is rising. There is oil and gas exploration going on. There are some big infrastructure projects under way. A new 23,000 capacity national stadium is starting to rise from the rubble of the old one, crumbling even when Wisdom and Beckham were there.

Only two weeks ago, the US Embassy raised the alarm over the absence of overseas investments due to widespread corruption. The recent Trieste Summit, which dealt with large infrastructural investments, led to zero results for Albania with no money of the Connectivity Agenda arriving in the near future.

And then, in the end, Campbell dares to praise one of the most corrupt initiatives of Rama’s entire first term as prime minister, the illegal destruction of the monumental Qemal Stafa stadium, the transfer of public land to a private corporation, and a completely opaque procurement process that featured all the familiar names from Rama’s clientele.

Listen, Alastair Campbell, you may come to Albania any time to visit your BFF, but please, please, keep your toxic thoughts out of the public sphere. Already for days I have been going to bed smelling the trash burning on illegal dumpsites around the city, I really don’t need to wake up reading it, too.



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