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The real lessons from Damian McBride

Posted on 12 April 2009 | 10:04am

These days I tend to find out news as much through interview bids as through listening to the radio or reading the papers. Sky or Radio Five Live are usually first, by email, with a phone call ten minutes later if I haven’t replied, then a rash of BBC producers, followed by a broadsheet asking for a considered piece.

Where we are in Scotland, reception comes and goes, so yesterday they were pinging in in batches as we moved around, asking for reaction, first, to the Damian McBride emails, then the McBride row and finally the McBride resignation.

Media people tend to assume knowledge of others, as though everyone spends their time listening to their programmes, so the resignation was reached without me knowing what the row was about, other than that it concerned allegations of a smear campaign. It was only this morning, thinking I could not really do a whole blog on how we went swimming in a freezing river yesterday, that I thought I should mug up a bit.

It is not through any attempt at distancing, merely a statement of fact, to say that I barely know Mr McBride. I was vaguely aware of him being around the Treasury when I was in Number 10, and vaguely aware that he was closer to the Charlie Whelan school of strategic communications than my own. (I’m aware we tend to get lumped together in some sections, but I know the differences, even if they don’t.)

In more recent times, I have been in meetings where Mr McBride has beeen present, but never heard him speak. I have heard his colleagues both defend him vigorously, and attack him equally forecefully. 

But on reading the emails he sent, I was struck not just by their unpleasantness, but also by their incompetence and, most of all, how much they miss the point about where we are politically.

The Tories are at their most vulnerable on policy. As I have been saying for some time, it is in this area that there has to be sustained, co-ordinated and vigorous attack, ensuring the public are aware of the incoherence and inconsistencies in the positions of those who would claim to be the next government of the UK. David Cameron and George Osborne are unfit to govern not because of any old photos, real or imagined, or visits to clinics, but because they don’t know what they want to do with power, and are simply hoping Labour hand it over on a plate. They are never happier than when talking about process and personality, as a means of avoiding policy and principle, so McBride has played right into their hands, even if Iain Dale is going over the top in trying to say it makes GB look like Nixon.

In the modern age, with freedom of information, inquiries galore, a restive civil service looking over its shoulder, a media prepared to print first and ask questions later, you may as well assume that anything you write down will be made public at some point. McBride will be thinking that was his big mistake – writing it all down. His really big mistake was thinking it might be effective.

What the fall-out must not do is make Labour defensive about trying to do a better job of communicating via the web. A more open and engaged politics is essential if Labour are to have a chance of winning a fourth term. This episode is a bad example of the old politics, much more than a botched example of the new. Whatever the hoo-ha in the media, that is how Labour should see it and the politicians need to start using the web and its opportunities properly, rather than saying this shows what happens if you try.

Secondly, for Labour to win a fourth term, there has to be a sense of new politics to match a very different era to the one in which we were first elected. Part of that is about the  think we all know the differences.

  • Mark Curry

    I utterly dispair of this episode – I hope that the Labour Party kick out McBride and Draper for bringing the party into disrepute

  • Silent Hunter

    You still don’t get it, do you Alastair?

    People like you in the Labour Party…..A R E…….the problem.

    4th term?….. Labour will be lucky to still be in existence after the next election.

  • DK Matai

    Dear Alastair

    Happy Easter!

    Having read your blog, it is our humble opinion that the issues we are facing are now going way beyond communication strategy and day-to-day presentation.

    They are about strategic intent, as globalised capitalism undergoes a monumental catharsis, with a scale, speed, synchronicity and severity which is unprecedented in history. Government intervention, in many cases, may delay that necessary catharsis and in a few cases, it is absolutely essential! Here that ancient prayer comes to me:

    “Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference!”

    The philosophical issue lies in being able to explain clearly where intervention is necessary and where it is not, ie, the logic of it — if there be one — n’est-ce pas?

    All the best

    DK

    DK Matai

    Chairman
    mi2g.net, ATCA, The Philanthropia, HQR, @G140

  • Dan Brusca

    “What the fall-out must not do is make Labour defensive about trying to do a better job of communicating via the web.”

    Labour and its supporters can have all the blogs they like, but as with Guido Fawkes, ConservativeHome etc, these are only ever going to engage with those involved in politics, the press or political junkies like myself. Rarely will they reach the masses.

    Most people have either stopped listening to politicians or at best listen with a cynical ear. They also feel that politicians have stopped listening to them, which is where the real causes of political disengagement lie. Why should we care about the politicians’ message when they seemingly don’t care about the messages we try to send them?

    I keep reading articles by people saying Labour needs to adopt an Obama-style web strategy to engage with young people and those who opt out of the traditional media, but they all fail to see the flaw in that whatever his strengths, Gordon Brown is never going to seize the popular imagination like Barack Obama did. The slick web operation only works when built around a figure people can feel inspired by and positive about and there are very, very few of those in British politics today.

  • Daniel Bentley

    I agree with you completely. GB’s main asset is his intergrity. His presentation may be poor but in the current climate if he’s seen to be making a good job of helping the world recession then people will respect him.

    No10 getting involved in gossip and slander that even Piers Morgan would be ashamed of is the polar opposite of what they should be doing.

    There should be more public transparency at Downing St and they need to take control of their own communications and get their own message out properly. The Obama campaign used social-media very effectively as a campaign tool but there’s questions of it’s appropiateness for an incumbent. There would however be little wrong with an online “fireside chat”.

  • Roy J Thomas

    Sad day for politics. The scary thing he wrote it down, denied, issued a bad release and made it worse. The naivety is that he thinks the public do not have a view. political parties and leaders must move on from hate/slur campaigns. Those who vote and care want more. We are in a new e- world of blogging -intelliegent bloggers/people who are now forsensic and not to be underestimated.The power of the net is here to stay.

  • S.Casey

    As a former Labour Party supporter I was at the time – and have continued to be – very interested in the events which surrounded Tony Blair being herded out of office. From newspapers the impression was created that some of Gordon Brown’s allies had been doing underhand things to help bring this about. And no doubt there is information available which would help me understand what did occur and who of Gordon Brown’s allies were implicated.
    Having read some of the content of Damien McBride’ e-mails I would like to know if he played any part in what occurred.
    I read your comments today on a Spectator blog and wanted to ask if you could recommend an ‘insiders’ account of the previous activities of Mr McBride.
    And I should add that I have alway viewed you as essentially a man of integrity doing a very difficult job.

  • JCA

    Really glad to read you condeming this Alistair…have spoken to some Labour friends defending it, which I can’t understand. I don’t believe politicians are all corrupt and cynical, so it’s a real shame when stories like this and the expenses ones appear, which give the impression that they are.

  • Martin EL

    All very true about the ineptitude of Damian McBride. I enjoyed your lordly dismissal of him although I don’t really believe that you knew as little of him as you make out. But let’s face it, Labour is useless at new media because like any party of socialist roots, loyalty to an agreed ‘line’ is prized above debate, and the web is in contrast anarchic. Even if you get rud of Draper that won’t change.

  • john akroyd

    There’s something particularly vile about the insinuations made in these emails – about Cameron particularly, after his recent bereavement.

    AC, the Tories are feather-weights policy-wise, but I wouldn’t hold much hope out about an issue-based campaign fron hereon in… the Tories won’t engage. Like the rest of us they can simply watch this zombie administration blunder into extinction.

  • matt

    Wholeheartedly agree with all this (although some bits seem missing at the end?)
    It is juvenile politics and thoroughly nasty – Draper’s response at the proposals, particularly to smear Osborne’s wife, is particularly revealing.
    He should be thoroughly ashamed of himself and apologise.
    Our politics is debased by exactly this kind of tactic – have we learnt nothing in the last 12 years?
    Alastair is right in advocating a new politics – one which must be based on Labour’s enduring values, with decency at their heart.
    And absolutely right too about tackling the Tories on policy – I am sick and tired of the almost constant recourse to the Bullingdon photograph and Cameron being ‘a Tory toff’.
    Again, juvenile politics.
    But what isn’t discussed here, for obvious reasons, is how much this kind of tactic reflects the atmosphere in Brown’s bunker and the ugly mindset of his gang?
    All of us suspect that exactly the same tactics, orchestrated by McBride and the usual suspects, have also been employed against our own ministers by Downing Street.
    Some would call it realpolitik. I call it hateful and it brings shame on our Party.
    If we were serious about a new politics, and a new openess, people like McBride would be kicked out of the Party.
    That would send a very clear message.
    I also can’t help feeling the certainty that we are now witnessing the death rattle of the last Labour Government.
    Opposition might well help us re-assert the primacy of Labour values – but in the meantime, the people who depoend on Labour will be left to pay the price of a Cameron government.
    That is the real tragedy.

  • Wireman

    What Labour have to realise is that “the Obama model” is a strategy for challengers, not incumbents. So they need to find a new way of using the web politically, one that works for a party in power. “More open and engaged”, sure. But they need to be more engaging too.

    Prescott gets it – though it can look a little like “dad dancing” sometimes. Draper most definitely doesn’t. Whoever decided to let him loose again wants wheeling out and shooting.

    Fortunately, the Tories haven’t really got their act together either. So there’s a bit of time to salvage something from this mess. Labour should start by ripping up whatever “top-down” plans they have and starting from scratch, with some people who realise that “controlling the narrative” is a chimera.

    Forget “Yes we can”. With the current shower of incompetents, no, you can’t.

  • Andy G

    People aren’t interested in a mud slinging competition, people are interested in (or will certainly vote on) which party is best equipped to get us through the global credit crunch. It’s obvious that the Conservatives don’t have anything to offer in terms of economic policy, so Labour supporters/spin doctors should put their best efforts into exposing this. If the Conservatives are shown up for having no relevant policies at the next election they won’t do very well. It’s not complicated!

  • Julian Evans

    Alastair, you were involved in the LabourList project, did you know about Red Rag?

  • jane

    I am very embarrassed by the disgraceful behaviour of someone close to the PM. I question the PM’s judgement in having someone with such a character advising him. Further, this man was totally loyal to the PM and must have assumed he was acting in his best interests.

    There is no doubt that the Labour Party are behind in getting its message across on the internet. What does it do? It supports Derek Draper in setting up a site. I read all political blogs (I am retired) and loathe Labourlist. I am tired of the ongoing spat between Derek Draper and Paul Staines and felt that this demeaned the future of the site in terms of spreading the message. Further, Derek Draper’s performance on the media does not serve the party well. He is now on You Tube lying about the existence of these E Mails. It is now time that the party distanced himself from this man and I think this is likely following Liam Bynes’s interview on television earlier today when he stated that Derek Draper does not hold any position within the labour party. I thought he was in charge of internet affairs?

    It is important that we have blogs from those supporting the party. Tom Harris’s blog is superb and some time ago he did suggest that Derek Draper eased off the personal attacks on Labourlist. Why does the party not use Tom to oversee such matters? He was not even invited to the group set up to oversee the setting up of Labourlist despite his web experience. The only reason I can think off is that he is too able and always offers reasoned argument. He offers critical analysis of policy but is never rude or ignorant with those with whom he disagrees.

    I believe that the PM likes these aggressive people around him even though he never soils his own hands. Those behind the ousting of Tony Blair have all benefitted. I am most unhappy with the situation – Tony Blair would never have associated with these people. Th is not the labour party that I know nor one I wish to be associated with. I am in a real dilemma after supporting this party for 40 years – do they still deserve my support?

  • Alex

    It just goes to show you can’t be too careful!

  • Darren Lilleker

    Sad to say but this episode is symptomatic of where we are in politics. The parties are essentially marketing themselves to the same group of voters, so policy attacks are non-viable because they are about means and not ends and those who are largely uninterested do not fully understand questions of policy only promises of outcomes. The corollary of this is that it is no longer about visions of society but trust in a management team. McBride’s tactics are thus asking the public to question to competence and integrity of the Conservative’s proposed management team in the same way as the various leaks about Labour expenses have damaged their image. The next election is going to be horrendously dirty, I predict, and it will be all about personality and not policy with vague suggestions from Labour that ‘they got it right’ and Conservatives saying they have ‘run out of steam’, ‘made the wrong decisions’ and probably ‘they are corrupt’. McBride’s real sin was he got caught, obviously he couldn’t find a good day to bury bad news!

    Darren
    http://darrenlilleker.blogspot.com

  • red star over london

    Alastair

    Well said

    It should be policy stupid

    Let’s not forget the damage Mc Bride and co cause – not least to to the morale of real Labour activists.

    In the 80’s it was only when Neil K personally took on the Militant Tendency that the Labour was able to move forward. Looks like Gordon will need to do offer the same leadership re certain bloggers

    PS Armando Iannucci has new film out next week. You would almost think that the events this weekend are part of a sophisticated advert for the film.

  • LMB

    As someone who was a Labour Party member until 2003, but disillusioned with the triumph of style over substance long before that, this whole episode reminds me of what happened to the Tory vote in 1997. Traditional Tory voters voted for Labour because they had had enough of sleaze and a party arrogant enough to think they were unbeatable.

    12 years later we are still in a costly war the majority of the country did not support, we have Labour politicians being more than flexible with their expenses, and trying to play to the populist gallery – the sight of Ms Blears having a go at Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross when her own house was in disarray was just offensive. And now Derek Draper drops the Party in it yet again; when he left last time he should have stayed away.

    If the Labour Party learned nothing else from the victory in 1997 they should at least have realised that people will not vote for a party tainted by allegations of sleaze, who focus on in-fighting rather than policy issues, and who feel untrustworthy.

  • davie

    “I agree with you completely. GB’s main asset is his integrity” Do some of you people actually BELIEVE this stuff? Brown has so guts no determination and no leadership ability at all. he micromanages and blames everyone else for his mistakes. AC had it right when he called him ‘flawed’ all those years ago.

  • CPW

    If only you had McBride’s genius. Had he sexed-up the ’45 minute’ report he would have had a lady of the Baghdad night sitting on Udah Hussain’s weapon of mass destruction.

  • David Hallam

    Like many other ordinary Labour party members I feel sick that members of our party (I assume that McBride is a party member) have been caught out getting themselves involved in these dirty tricks.

    I did not join the Labour Party to harass people about the supposed mental health problems of family members.

    You only need to see the deranged comments on the Guido Fawkes blog to understand why it is so important we retain a Labour government.

    It is so sad that a fundamentally decent man like Gordon Brown is being tainted with this nonsense.

    It is time to focus on policy and remind ourselves that Labour is the party of decency and fairness.

  • Alina Palimaru

    Well said, AC! Labour can do better than these cheap efforts at character assassination, which have nothing to do with anything that people actually care about. You are also right about reminding us that Labour has a policy record to fall back on and the Tories have a policy record that cannot withstand scrutiny, and this is what it should be all about.

  • Obnoxio The Clown

    It is not through any attempt at distancing, merely a statement of fact, to say that I barely know Mr McBride

    Of course, Alastair. We believe you. Really!

  • Jane A

    I thought Liam Byrne excellent on this morning’s news (bit thin where he went with the line that this was “a couple of mates batting emails around”) not least because he was loud and clear that Derek Draper was not, as the BBC suggested, “in charge of the Labour internet campaign.”

    Glad he said that twice, so no one was left in any doubt.

  • George Woodhouse

    Of course it is about policy – not thats only part of the equation. labour had the best polcies in 97 – which earned my vote. But sicne then thye have proved incapable of implementing them adequately anf far less have they managed the consequences. These things are just as important. Its easy to spend other peoples money, but much more difficult to make sure it is spent wisely and effectively. Look at the dirty hospitals, the inaccessable GPs, the poorly educated children, the inaccessable schools, the invisible dentists, the underfunded armed forces, the greedy grasping ministers and MPs. The money has been spent by the billions, but where has it gone and where are the results!

  • StrongholdBarricades

    “Communicator . Writer . Strategist”

    I have a problem with this assertion when you state

    These days I tend to find out news as much through interview bids as through listening to the radio or reading the papers

    One seems mutually incompatible with the other, however, I’m sure you can explain the perceived dichotomy.

    I think the only things your blog doesn’t touch on is blame, responsibility and accountability.

    I could add, contract law, personnel disciplinary procedures, and management delegation of authority.

    I think that to say that this is just something between two of your ex-colleagues is a bit short of the mark. It would be unfortunate if more evidence appears that embarrasses your assessment.

    I think the one thing that the Labour party needs to win the next election is “Truth”

    Truth on expenses, truth on accountability, truth on targets, truth on parliament and democracy, and truth on policy. Once MP’s are “seen” to be “Honourable” you will restore belief in the parliamentary process.

  • Paul Seaman

    Message to Damian McBride and the remaining Labour Party spin-machine: Barack Obama, arguably the most respected politician on earth, said of himself: “Junkie. Pothead. That’s where I’d been headed: the final, fatal role of the young would-be black man. . . . I got high [to] push questions of who I was out of my mind.” More…

    http://paulseaman.eu/2009/04/only-nlabour-thought-thered-be-mileage-in-gossipe/

  • Chas

    “most of all, how much they miss the point about where we are politically.”

    Where you are politically is dead. Dead and buried. Never to rise again. Finished. Over. Deceased. Thank fuck. Good riddance to you and all the poisonous filfth you peddle. Goodbye.

  • James

    Campbell will never acknowledge the supreme irony of his describing a Tory party in 2009 which almost exactly resembles the New Labour of 1996, focussing on process and personalities and ad hominem attacks and evading straight answers to serious questions of policies, strategy and direction. Indeed, the first two years of a New Labour government gave us another two years of Tory policy, mostly. And nobody knew what Blair really stood for in the first three years of his leadership of the party – by Alistair’s design. As a former local volunteer for the party, I remember it well.

    Lest it be remembered that it was the Labour spin and briefing machine of 1995 through 1997 (and beyond) which changed the scene of British politics to that with which we are now so familiar today.

    John Smith has been spinning in his grave for so long I’m surprised he hasn’t burrowed through to Australia yet…..

  • Andrew Carruthers

    The essential pojnt is about Brown. Either he knew about this stuff, or he ought to have known, if McBride was his appontment and so close to him. In any event he is responsible for him. Brown’s tendency not to be there when the problems start is unbelieveable.

  • DC

    No wonder we are a public disillusioned with our politicians and our political system when even those who should be upholding and exemplifying the values of our nation are down there in the gutter. Brown’s silence is deafening – by failing to address this himself he has shown himself at best to be out of touch with the people he leads – and at worst culpable in this sordid affair. Labour has had its day, I’m afraid. We’re tired of the tautology.

  • Jane A

    PS, additional to previous post:

    My view – and I’ll accept I’m biased, New Labour to the core – is that this sort of dazzling ineptitude wouldn’t have happened in your day. I think we may lose this election without you back at the centre of the operation, but would win hands down if you were back at No10.

    I equally know that’s not going to happen, but days like these do make me hope.

  • Leveller on the Liffey

    Just why McBride and Draper would waste their time even thinking about such a scam is beyond me.

    It wasn’t “juvenile” – it was a stupid idea that has made Cameron & Co look like victims of a political plot by Labour backroom schemers.

    They’ve handed the Tories a publicity bonus.

  • Alex r

    As a person committed to the political process but a floating voter in a marginal seat my view is that this episode makes me question Gordon Brown’s judgement in selecting Damian McBride in the first place .

    With the country in serious recession and needing strong leadership it is interesting that in 2008 the American election did not descend into gutter politics nor could I imagine the Obama administration stooping to something so puerile – with the “scandal “ surrounding Cabinet Minister’s expenses claims continuing it serves to undermine the entire political process generally but the integrity of the Labour party specifically .

  • Terry Evans

    my post from earlier not published, twice now this week. Nothing controversial I didn’t think

  • david smith

    I understand Guido was paid £25,000 by the Murdoch empire for flogging the emails. Typical! Why is no one asking how he got them? Shouldn’t Draper be calling in the cops?

  • Charlie

    Derek Draper’s continued contribution to Labours online General Election effort will cerainly result in an increased majority……for the Tories.

  • Egg

    What a load of sycophantic crap.

    Ally is one of the reasons it’s looking shaky.
    Lies, upon lies.
    It’s like he never left.

  • Ade

    The Tories avoid policy because the average floating voter is the most two faced person in the country and will run at the sight of any policy that might change things. Sticking with the devil you know might not be so bad for them. Cameron knows this and so avoids making policy until he’s in office. Trying to claim they are incoherent idiots is pretty lame though, at least they haven’t lied about WMD’s and nearly destroyed the banking system etc

  • Kevin

    There is a good side to this. It should ’emotionally’ destabilise Cameron and that means he will be more likely to make mistakes. I’m not saying things are good right now but in time this should work to Labours advantage. I’d suggest setting up Red Rag since it now is inflated with with unforeseen publicity. Using it to critically attack the Tories Policies and keep it in the public eye with a little scandal, every now & then.

  • Adam

    Tough times ahead for GB. Suggest he close down all avenues of attack by stating he distances himself from this man and his words, from this kind of so-called politics, and (in hindsight) he was wrong to have placed trust in him. Admit error, take flak, apologise, close chapter, move on.

  • P Thomas

    As one who regards most of you as unworthy of being in public life ( based on my observations over many years) I have to say I thought the whole email business was puerile and infantile rather than juvenile.

    I will vote at the next General Election simply because I have the right to do so ( a right which people worked for). However, I will have no confidence in a body of people such as this and I haven’t forgotten how Mo Mowlem was pushed out after achieving so much when she had achieved so much. Am I right in thinking you were amongst those briefing against her?

    As for your political observations they are as accurate as any elected politician and not worth consideration.

  • Marc

    I was watching “The West Wing” earlier, and someone said “We don’t need an opposition party, we’re doing just fine by ourselves”. How true that is of Labour at the moment.

  • amanfromMars

    “Whatever the hoo-ha in the media, that is how Labour should see it and the politicians need to start using the web and its opportunities properly, rather than saying this shows what happens if you try.”

    Quite so, Alastair, however, it is a new environment/medium which does not lend itself to abuse/the malign management of perception via Media as IT leads Media. And by IT, I would further offer those who are building Cloud Controls for the Networks Internetworking over the World Wide Webs/the Grid.

    And it is to be fully expected that both politicians and Media, and by Media I would mean MainStream Media, will be dancing a Merry Jig to their IntelAIgently Designed tunes rather than a Gay Gordon to anything else, Built upon Secrets which cannot be shared because of the very Probable Definite Criminal Spin Element of their Nature.

    And it is also inevitable, given the very pervasive and subversive/perversive and immersive Nature of the new Virtual Web Medium/Semantic Web WAI, that anyone entering into its fields with less than an Honesty of Future Purpose, for it is, of course, a field of Future InfraStructure Build, in and of ITself, will quickly, if not almost immediately be outed with that which they least require to be known and would be trying to hide from general knowledge.

    In such a Novel Environment, is it as well to Start Anew with something Completely New, so that Past Baggage, with all of the Implications Associated with any Dodgy Elements within it, have neither Direct Influence nor Indirect Effect upon a Clean Slate. Anything less is Guaranteed to Fail and Guaranteed to Fail Catastrophically and Guaranteed to Fail Catastrophically at an Exponential Pace such is the Power and Control in the NeuReal Nexus/the Virtual Driver Hubs of Cloud Communications Cores.

    And a little something, Alastair, which Lord Mandelson’s BERR cuckoo empire is sitting on, rather than the People Investing in, which is another unpleasantness which will inevitably see the light of day quickly, and even in an opposing armoury if not quietly debuted stealthily as a matter of immediate convenience/attention/internetional significance and probably even national security via, …… well, in Government are there so many available channels, is it nothing but ignorant incompetence for none of them to be used and energised with such a new facility/component/element.

    “A more open and engaged politics is essential if Labour are to have a chance of winning a fourth term.” ….. Indeed.

    And now having shared all of the above with you freely, and all of which will be also shared elsewhere to engage with similarly interested IDEntities, it would surely put an Onus upon anyone with a Modicum of Establishment Political Influence, such as may be yourself, to do something Constructive with IT, rather than not have ITs News and Views exposed in a Thread, which presumably you would Control.

    And I only share that last point because of the BBC difficulty which arises when a post/poster to their Public Funded Boards is denied access, simply because of a dissenting view offering a constructive alternative course. If the Boards are for the Propagation of a Closed Policy then Public Funding through a Tax Revenue is Anathema.

  • James Thompson

    Alastair,

    It’s understandable that you try and refocus things back on to the Tories, but I’m afraid you’re rather missing one of the most important issues here: what it says about Gordon Brown’s judgement and character that he surrounds himself with people like Damian.

    Despite your curious denial of much knowledge of “Mr McBride”, I can assure you that the rest of Westminster has known full well what Damian is like and how he has operated for the near-decade that he’s been by Brown’s side. The PM may genuninely have had no knowledge of these specific e-mails, but the idea that he had no idea of the kinds of things Damian has been getting up to is just ludicrous. I notice no-one has been defending Damian as saying this was in any way a “one off” or “out of character”. The fact that Gordon Brown chooses to surround himself with vicious bullies speaks volumes of his nasty premiership.

  • Kris

    “juvenile”? My arse! These aren’t the rogue musings of a couple of over-aged schoolboys. This shit will stink all the way up to Gordon.

    Quite frankly, will anyone be surprised? The man just had to have his day [as Leader] at the expense of the Party and this nation. The wheels are spinning off and I can wait for the next election.

    Bye, bye Gordon.

  • Dave

    It is completely understandable that you wish to downplay this episode because it shows the execrable depths that the Labour party is currently plumbing. It shows you in a particularly poor light insofar that you were the principle architect of the stats and spin politics that the British people despise so completely.

    What bothers me about this most of all is that none of the political commentators have so far hit on the reason for these emailed suggestions.

    The problem for Labour is that they have nothing left to fight with. Pleadings for the public to accept that the NHS, education, Policing, the Armed Forces etc are safe, fall on deaf ears because stats are no longer believed. Years of your spin has numbed us to any real message. Mr Brown has been completely found out as being an economic Jonah. The country is in debt to the tune of hundreds of billions. Social decline is irreversible due to the welfare, immigration and integration free-for-all policies adopted under your old boss’s government. The Labour dream has been totally discredited and soon we will wake up and the dream will be nothing more than an unpleasant memory.

    And Brown and co know this, but what can they do? There is nothing left to fight with. So instead of taking the decent, honourable option of going to the people (their employers) they decide to dredge the pond and amongst the slime, they find this guy to invent some maliciousness. And when it goes wrong, of course Brown tries to distance himself. Although if the smear campaign had been allowed to roll out, he would have lapped it up like the seedy little opportunist that he is.

    Hopefully this is that last card in the Labour hand and they will be out of the game. For good.

  • Antigone

    I love the way that whoever edits the Sunday Times News Review apparently has no contact with the front end of the paper. So they evidently didn;t notice yesterday that when the front section and editorial was fulminating against the wickedness of McBride et al (with considerable justification) they published an account in Paddy Ashdown’s biog extract in News review of almost idenitical activities carried out in 1992, when the major government looked certain to lose (but, alas didn’t) by cabinet members no less. Sadly the lack of email denies us the records but to quote Paddy:
    “We learnt that some Tories had uimported a group of US activists called “the Nerds” whose job was to spread malign rumours and make unfounded personal allegations agaist senior opposition MPs…
    Paddygoes on “Perhaps this was done without official sanction fron the top of the Conservative party but after the election Kelvin McKenzie, then editor of the Sun revealed tat at least one cabinet level Tory minister had approached him seeking to retail scrurrilous and untrue allegations against a number of senior apposition MPs”

    None of this excuses McBride one iota. His conduct and that of others who eged him on, is despicable as well as idiotic – but there’s a lot of stones being thrown around glass houses here. [It’s also amusing to see that Paddy thought himself to be a senior opposition MP….]

  • Michael Davies

    Alastair

    You know Gordon Brown and his controlling manias all too well. Is it remotely conceivable that he didn’t know and didn’t approve of this ‘dark’ smear operation? When it comes to work going on around him, Brown is obsessively intrusive and obsessively micro-manages. he just doesn’t do “hands-off”.

    Now we learn that Brown and Draper had lunch at Chequers within two weeks of Draper covertly registering the Red Rag domain. What did they discuss? Is it possible that such a vacuous bragger like Draper would have kept quiet through three courses and cheese about his latest pet project? Or even that he wasn’t at the table for the very purpose of briefing Brown on it?

    The trouble for Labour, for Brown, and possibly for you, is that we feel as though we are being taken for fools and that any lie, no matter how preposterous, will somehow clear the air have us nodding in dumb acquiescence.

    Perhaps, based on your experience in No 10, you could helpfully reflect on what a Prime Minister (well one like like Brown) would be likely to know and not to know.

  • Tim

    “The Tories are at their most vulnerable on policy”? At a time when Gordon is driving the UK economy onto the rocks? Get real!

  • Mark Clitheroe

    If anyone really believes that people in the Conservative don’t send negative emails about Labour politicians to like minded colleages, they are totally naive. The real bad guy in the Damian McBride story is the person who leaked the private emails. I wonder which political party he or she supports?

  • Barbara Cannon

    I entirely agree with you that Labour politicians must start using the web in order to get their messages out. That is their messages about policy. They must also be prepared to debate those policies online and not become over defensive when folk disagree with them. The odd bit of humility would not come amss either.

    As for Damien McBride I think we are well rid of him but I also think he has given the Tories a gift. Its a gift simply because they have a policy vacuum to fill. Its a gift because it derails our own message.

  • Gordon Hickley

    When is Alastair getting his peerage and installation in the upper house?

  • Will

    Cameron and Osborne ‘unfit to govern?’ Lets check Labours CV over the past decade: 12 years of spin, half truths to justfify military action, government figures refusing to take accountability for misdemeanours and if that wasn’t bad enough, the economy being driven onto the rocks, something for which the Prime Minister refuses to accept any responsibility at all. And then, there are people like McBride who are part of the same conspiracy, funded by taxpayers, to promote further lies and misinformation in an increasingly desperate attempt to cling onto power…

    The last 12 years has seen a catalogue of arrogance, vanity, smugness and blatant dishonesty….and the people of this country are sick to the back teeth of him and the whole New Labour experiment.

    And you think Gordon Brown and his sanctimonious charges ARE fit to govern?

  • Des Currie

    How nice to find you here. I will read some of you, and see if I find you interesting. I took real interest in you in the old days (how days seem turn into years).
    Des Currie

  • Simon

    I love this. Alastair – you remain the spinmeister. This is genius at work.

    You basically say “I’m not one of those comms guys who engages in smears” but then launch into eight smears against McBride.

    – when I was at Number 10 he was a nobody
    – he was “around” the Treasury, ie wasn’t even allowed in
    – he was in the Charlie Whelan school, not the noble Campbell school
    – today he goes to meetings but doesn’t speak
    – his colleagues hate him
    – he’s unpleasant
    – he’s incompetent
    – he lacks political nous

    Alastair, I wish you’d devote your time and enormous expertise to getting this noxious piece of shit Gordon Brown out of Number Ten instead of keeping him in there. I literally can not think of a more odious Prime Minister in history. And he is rapidly turning Labour into the nasty party.

    You could help organise a great coup from within the party if you wanted to. No-one likes him. He’s just horrible. And he is going to inflict the most disastrous defeat on the party in its history unless he’s turfed out.

  • Alex F

    There’s not many people within the Labour Party who will lament the loss of Damian McBride.

    His actions have brought the Party into disrepute and led to huge reputational damage. It is only right that he goes.

    Its not like we should be surprised though. McBride has pulled this sort of stunt before, only this time he was directing it at the Tories rather than his own side. No wonder there were so few in the Labour Party willing to defend him. Not for nothing did he earn the nickname, McPoison.

    McBride’s suggestions for attacking the Tories, which included sexual, emotional and professional smears reveal a deeply flawed, nasty character. People like him are not fit to serve the Prime Minister or the country.

    Of course, politics is a blood sport with plenty of rough and tumble. And if you can’t dish it out or take it, then you won’t last two minutes. But this is the politics of the gutter and it has no place in our system.

    McBride and the rest of Brown’s cabal are bullies and thugs who think that politics is a big game, one huge joke, in which its all about ‘getting one over on the other side’. There’s not even a semblance of high minded principle of reason with these folks about.

    I am very surprised that Draper, a trained therapist, would find it funny that jokes were being made about the emotional state of George Osborne’s wife. Even if this were true, which it isn’t, where is the compassion or humanity on display here?

    So what does it say about Brown? Well, I think it once again reveals his Jekyll and Hyde persona. A man who can be so moral, purposeful and good can also resort to the type of political skullduggery and smearing that Richard Nixon would have felt comfortable with.

    The Tories want Brown to personally apologise and I think he should. McBride wasn’t just a ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ adviser. He had been with Brown for over a decade and was immensely powerful.

    Brown is responsible for McBride’s actions because he has presided over a culture at the Treasury and in Number Ten which has allowed this sort of politics to develop. And in that sense he is to blame.

    It is a dreadful day for the Prime Minister and a dreadful day for politics.

  • Elliott Burton

    You need to get back in there Alistair and sort these novices out! These types of smears are right up your street, the only difference is you would never of been caught because you were a professional. Also thanks for giving me a fantastic laugh when you talk about the need for a ‘more open and engaged politics’ than the ‘old politics’. Irony is too weak a word to describe this type of statement coming from the King Of Spin.

  • julyboy

    Labour haven’t changed, do anything to remain in power. They’ve had it. Tha nation struggles because of Labour’s recession and all they can do is sit in No. 10 making up lies and trying to hurt someone who lets not forget only lost his child a few weeks ago. Labour are utter scum.

  • A Neverwas

    Very clever. A plan to make personal attacks blows up in No. 10’s (collective) face. So the message is “it’s all about the policies stupid and the Cons don’t have any.” I hate what A. Campbell et al did to politics (and the civil service) but they were – and are – bloody good at it.

  • Des Currie

    The prime minister wrote: “I have already taken responsibility for acting on this – first by accepting Mr McBride’s resignation and by making it clear to all concerned that such actions have no part to play in the public life of our country.
    Quoth he.
    Such ations that they may be.
    Why do people do this sort of thing? Is it all part of the game?

  • FrapplinWess

    I find it utterly depressing that as the electoral majority are faced with rising unemployment, inflation and financial inequality, politicians and their aides still waste time on smear campaigns to score cheap political points.

    If only politicians could find a way to drag themselves out of their own rear ends we might, just might, find the less informed masses of this country engaged in genuine political debate that will ensure the next government is elected on the merit of their policies and not as a result of how much their MPs might spend on a bath plug!

  • TomNightingale

    It is clear The Labour Party is very concerned about the damage likely to be caused by the McBrideGate affair. On BBC news they have wheeled out Hazel “the cheeky little chipmunk” Blears to grin and giggle her way through all criticism; just like in the Blair days. Recently they have been using Basher McNulty…but he’s in so much brown and sticky they dare not do that.

  • David Smith(DaveS596-XE1)

    Well I suppose it had to happen sooner or later, the desperate actions of a Government that knows it will lose a general election, The campaign being cooked up by Mr McBride and his cohorts (It’s hard to believe that no other person was involved or knew about the dirty e-mails) would have been timed to coincide with a Labour election campaign, Mr McBride thought he could just set up a smear campaign on the Internet, and he really did think he would get away with it, Wooops! What Mr McBride has done, is hand the keys of Number 10 over to David Cameron and save The Tories a shed load of money, I don’t think they will have to spend to much cash to convince the electorate to vote for Mr Cameron. As for Mr Brown, well he has been a caretaker PM who will never be a real, elected PM and he’s presided over a shambles of a Government, now shot in the foot by his top adviser, I think it’s time to throw the towel in and lets get someone in to sort out the mess, Britain needs a Government to get it back on its feet, but from my vewpoint I can’t see much of an alternative to the shower we have now, I’ve heard nothing fron neather the Tories nor the LibDems that tells me they could run the show any better or worse,It couldn’t get much worse, could it? it’s all a bit of a catch 22 and the British public just have to keep smiling and put up with all the rubbish these politicians throw at us and each other. Daves596-XE1

  • John

    I say to Mr. McBride and his kind, what is life like in the gutter?

  • Martin

    I thought Civil Servants were supposed to be neutral?

    It was you Alistair, that politicized the Civil Service.

  • michael

    I became a paid up member of new labour’s 1000 club in 1993. I did so in part because I thought that there was a need for change from the sleeze of the of the Major Government. A breath of fresh clean air, I hoped.

    What comes around, seemingly goes around.

  • Dylan E. Thomas

    An impressive Web Site, like the combination of blog and comments but in two different sections.

  • John Sutherland

    Typical new labour inability to face reality. The party’s over, Al. And, it was a horrible nightmare anyway. Time to tip you and yours all into the compost heap and hope something nice springs up one day.

    In the meantime, Cameron looks like Blair II: things can only get better. If not, I’m one of a host who might well vote BNP and give the fascists a chance over the dirty world of GB.

  • Andy

    I watched sadly as the power drifted from the people and their representatives, to the quiet lounges of New Labour leaders and their disciples. The issue is now how to stop this Monster that the labour party has turned into, from destroying the economy. It is too large, ineffective, scarily controlling and too slow to repond to the rapid challenges we now face.

    Brown has no imagination, simply ambition. His “success” as chancellor was that he changed none of Thatchers essential economic improvements. He said and I quote “an end to boom and bust”, only 18 months ago. He has encouraged indebtedness, allowed a free and innocent man to be killed by Police without blame, and supported a war for the sole purpose of gaining power after Blair left.

    This man Brown is a low form of life and has surrounded himself with the Political animals he can understand. Even you, committed to a cause of Socialism must see that the Labour Party has gone as nuts as the Tory Party was after so many years in Power. It is simply necessary for a change of Party not a just a change of leadership.

  • Raymond Anderson

    There’s a link between the stories which have so unsettled Labour since the G20. They all seem to come from illegality. Someone leaking information on expenses from the House of Commons, and someone “leaking” (or should that be hacking into a computer) information from a computer in No10. The newspapers, for their own reasons, never ask this vital question. They’re delighted to have anti-government stories to splash. The dangers of this form of reporting is that it is unbalanced and basically unfair. An odd word to use in politics, but it is the basic injustice of the current crop of political stories which angers me. How do we get to the debate on the Tory’s fitness for office when this trivia fills the airwaves and uses up all the newsprint?

  • George Woodhouse

    Typically you are blaming the messenger Raymond. Crimes are committed every minute of everyday and no one worries too much how these come to light and get reported and the criminals prosecuted. Often the information has probably come from what you would describe as an unfair source. What many of our MPs and, more concerning, ministers have done and are still doing is a best unfair, and would be criminal if done by a non-member of th political classes.

    These people should be hounded out of public life – their actions are indefensible, and you should be ashamed for belitting what they have done by making so much of the “leaking” of the information.

    I am not suggesting that it is exclusively a Labour problem, but until we can trust our politicians it is futile discussing policies or the ability of the parties to implememnt those policies.

  • George Woodhouse

    Remind me – who was it who said:

    “There is nothing that you could say to me now that I could ever believe” – and to whom?????.

    Oh yes I remember – but would we want a president who we cannot believe?