There is little I can add to the well-published facts surrounding the odious activities of the head of Downing St. Strategy and Planning Unit, Damian McBride, except to state the facts. He was one of Gordon Brown’s most senior and long-standing aides, a fellow Scot, known in media circles as ‘McPoison,’ partly for his habit of sending vicious and intimidatory texts to journalists who failed to toe the party line. He was paid a ‘six figure’ salary by the UK taxpayer to smear detractors at the government’s behest. His resignation statement borders on the psychotic, opening with an attack on Tory blogger Paul Staines, (Guido Fawkes) for revealing the plot to disseminate vicious slurs on the Shadow Prime Minister and Chancellor, implying that Staines should have kept quiet about libellous emails intended to illegally and maliciously distort public opinion of HM Official opposition. He then claims that the idea originated with co-conspirator Derek Draper, as a counter to unspecified anti-Labour slurs. The emails suggested using libelous and unfounded accusations that the Shadow Prime Minister had a sexually transmitted disease (he and his wife recently lost a child) and sexual allegations against the Shadow Chancellor, amongst others. The Prime Minister, usually quick to claim the moral high ground, has not come forward with a statement of condemnation. Alan Johnson, Health Secretary, while admitting that the allegations were ‘disgusting’, attempted to make light of the issue on BBC Radio 4 this morning, denying any responsibility on the part of McBride’s employer. (In passing, it has been alleged elsewhere that Karl Milner, another former Brown aide, former political lobbyist and implicated with Draper in the 1998 ‘Lobbygate’ scandal – see below – may have handled donations for Johnson’s Deputy Leadership campaign).
McBride puts his fellow conspirator firmly in the frame. “When Derek Draper originally suggested using a website to compete with the kind of material seen regularly on the Guido Fawkes blog, he asked me in a personal capacity to write up some of the stories doing the rounds in Westminster. Derek and I decided in the end that this website was the wrong thing to do, and that Derek should not take his online efforts down to the level of Guido Fawkes and his Tory backers.” (McBride resignation statement). Draper, a former aide to twice-banished ‘Lord’ Peter Mandelson, was himself disgraced in the 1998 ‘Lobbygate’ scandal, where he claimed that he could facilitate access to New Labour insiders and cabinet figures for a fee. He suffered a breakdown, went to California via The Priory, gained an MA in Clinical Psychology (though not at Berkeley as he implied on his CV) and re-invented himself as a BACP accredited psychotherapist. This latest backsliding suggests that he may be in need of some serious supervision.
Recently Draper re-entered the world of politics with his LabourList website. His own ‘apologies and regrets’ blog on this website today shows little in the way of apology and insufficient ‘regret’. In proposing that we ‘draw a line’ under this ‘silly’ episode, while repeating Green’s ‘excuse’ that the emails should never have seen the light of day, he omits to mention that his putative vehicle for smear, “RedRag” is still a registered domain (listed under an accommodation address). While he and Green have accused unnamed Tory grandees of supporting Guido Fawkes, he has repeatedly claimed that LabourList is completely independent of New Labour. Yet its content unambiguously supports the party line and boasts of inside track information. As for smears, recent examples of its top-level agenda-setting stories in the national interest include a story about Tory Transport spokesman John Leech MP forgetting to renew his car tax. Draper has repeatedly sidestepped questions as to who supports/endorses and/or contributes to LabourList, and whether they are part of the incumbent government and its fellow travellers.
The third recipient of sordid emails, Charlie Whelan, was a sweary former spin doctor (aide to Gordon Brown, no less) under the Blair-led Government, who ‘stepped down’ after the 1999 Mandelson home loan scandal, and is now Press Officer of the Unite trade union. All three have strong links to Labour/Brown and/or Mandelson. One was on the government payroll in a senior official advisory capacity. It beggars belief that the country should ‘draw a line’ under this conspiracy to sink British politics to the gutter levels which did so much damage to democracy in the US. Brown needs to issue a statement of unqualified condemnation and apology to the Conservatives and to the country. Anything less is an admission of complicity, and failure to do so should be seen in its own context. In passing, it is obviously and wholly coincidental that the recent resurgence of slimeball spin doctoring and dark arts, which Brown vowed to end when he became Prime Minister, appears to have coincided with the reappearance in High Office of the spotless Peter Mandelson, who allegedly ‘poured poison’ about Gordon Brown into the ear of George Osborne on the boat of a Russian Oligarch (Yachtgate) in an incident which led to Osborne’s political discomfiture, three months before returning to government. So successful was his black propaganda that nobody asked what the EU Trade Commissioner was doing on Oleg Deripaska’s yacht.