Labour Plot to smear opponents backfires
A very close associate of the Prime Minister, Damian McBride, has had to resign from a senior position at Ten Downing Street after he was caught red-handed plotting to spread a tissue of sick and obscene lies about the families and sex lives of several senior Conservatives.
McBride, who was Head of Strategy and Planning at No 10, sent emails to a number of colleagues proposing a smear campaign which would have used a website called “Red Rag” to promote unattributed and baseless smears, such as suggesting that the wife of one senior Conservative party figure has mental problems, and going further down into the gutter from there.
This man was writing the worst kind of Labour propaganda and smears on government time, paid for by the taxpayer, and sent his proposals for this tawdry smear campaign from a Downing Street email address. I’m rather inclined to agree with The Times that he should not have been permitted to resign: he should have been sacked.
Charles Clarke MP said, as soon as the emails became public knowledge, that “Damian McBride has no place in Downing Street. His actions bring shame on the Labour Party and he should be dismissed immediately.”
Former Transport Minister Tom Harris MP said that
“We screwed up, big time. We have no one, absolutely no one at all to blame for this but ourselves. The damage the Labour party and the government have sustained this last 24 hours has been entirely self-inflicted.
And the people behind this sordid little mess owe everyone named in these emails a very public apology.”
The Prime Minister has today written to the people named in the emails expressing his “regret” but to the best of my knowledge they have had no apology. McBride has apologised to his colleagues in the Labour party for embarrassing them – which I can appreciate he has – but according to the newspapers nobody has apologised to the victims of this attempted smear campaign.
And McBride is not the only person with questions to answer. Derek Draper’s reply to the emails was that the proposed smears were “Absolutely totally brilliant, Damien.” Even after the whole sordid business became public he was still defending McBride and said that some of McBride’s proposed smears were “brilliant and rather funny.”
While the Labour party retains any connection with the “Labourlist” website run by Draper, it will be legitimate to question the sincerity of claims that the party disavows the tactics McBride and Draper were plotting to use.
Nor is Gordon Brown entirely off the hook. He may not have been aware of the precise details of the smears that were being cooked up. But McBride had been one of Brown’s closest colleagues and supporters for the best part of a decade, starting as his special adviser in Number Eleven when he was chancellor and coming with him to Number Ten when be became PM. It is beyond belief that Gordon Brown does not know exactly what kind of man Damien McBride is.
There are people in the Labour party with integrity. They are the kind of people who are horrified to see venom as a substitute for debate and character assassination as a substitute for policy. For the sake of the health of British politics, let us hope that those like Damien McBride who have been plotting to fight the dirtiest election campaign in history are defeated.