Yet more Labour smears ...
If I had to identify the worst and most poisonous aspect of the "New Labour" culture it would have to be the extent to which many of them - not all - are extremely prone to smearing anyone who gets in their way.
I've changed my views on this since moving to Copeland: if you had asked me when I lived in St Albans who were the dirtiest fighters in politics I would have answered that it was the Liberal Democrats. Conservative and Labour councillors on that authority frequently ended up working together to a greater extent than you would expect because both those groups found that Lib/Dem dirty tricks made them very difficult to co-operate with.
However, there are decent people and scoundrels in every political party, and I'm coming to the view that a large part of the present Labour administration is even less scrupulous than the worst Lib/Dems in their willingness to smear anyone who stands in their way. That doesn't just mean Conservatives - they are almost equally quick to turn on ordinary citizens or each other. (Look at the things that people close to Tony Blair have said about Gordon Brown and vice versa.)
The McBride affair, when one of Gordon Brown's closest associates was caught trying to plant filthy lies about the sex lives and the sanity of family members of leading Consertives, was probably the worst single example of this, but it was not an isolated case. This has been a consistent thread throughout the Labour government. Remember
* Rose Addis, a 94 year old grandmother who was accused of racism after her family expressed concern about the health care she was given by the NHS
* The attempt to dig up dirt on survivors and the families of victims of the Paddington Rail Crash, described here.
* When Martin Sixsmith, a former journalist who was Director of Communications at the Department of Transport, tried to ensure that the funeral of the Queen Mother was not used to hide embarrassing news, it became his turn, not just to be smeared but "resigned" - cabinet minister Stephen Byers announced that Sixsmith had resigned when he hadn't. HIs permanent secretary was dragged into defending the minister as described here.
* Labour MPs themselves have not been immune: the late Gwyneth Dunwoody, then chairman of a Select Committee, said that the government smear machine had been employed against her too for disagreeing with Labour minister Stephen Byers.
* A few weeks ago there were a series of attacks against the previous head of the army Sir Richard Dannant, which were described by former Chief of the Defence Staff Lord Guthrie with the words: “This is ghastly spin, the sort of behaviour you expect from the gutter. Richard Dannatt is beyond reproach. This is beneath contempt.”
That is far from a complete list.
Taken individually, any one of these stories could be dismissed as an isolated incident or the press getting things wrong. But looking at the total picture and it is difficult for a reasonable person to avoid the conclusion that people very close to both Blair and Brown have used smearing anyone who gets in their way as a routine political tactic.
Passing the newspaper stands this morning, I was disgusted to see what appears to be the latest Labour smear campaign on the front page of the Mail on Sunday. Only a few days after the "gutter" attacks on the outgoing head of the army, General Sir Richard Dannatt, it alleges that Labour Ministers were preparing a smear campaign against his successor, General Sir David Richards.
You can read the Mail story here.
Apparently the government were preparing to smear Sir David if he repeats the concerns expressed by his predecessor about whether our armed forces in Afghanistan are given enough support. Labour were particularly concerned because Sir David's 25-year-old daughter works for David Cameron as his diary secretary.
It is suggested that one of the real reasons why Labour MP Eric Joyce, a former army major, resigned as PPS to the Defence Secretary last week was that he strongly disagreed with any such tactics.
And the response of the Labour trolls on various blogs today? They have been posting comments attacking Eric Joyce and suggesting that he planted this story.
No political party is perfect. But the systematic smears by too many Labour politicians against anyone who crosses them are much worse than the normal run of political knockabout and represent a new low in political debate. If there is any justice, these guys deserve to be absolutely hammered at the next election.