Brown's treasury and the "Admiral Byng" approach

Damian McBride, the former aide to Gordon Brown who had to resign after he was caught planing to plant some pretty filthy and untrue smear stories about his poltiikcal opponents, made some intersting comments about his approach to leaks on his blog in a post called "The Seven Year Hitch" which you can read here. The key section, which has been the subject of debate on "Political Betting" and which casts a very unflatttering light on the functioning of the Brown Treasuring - including Ed Miliband and Ed Balls - is as follows:

"The Treasury under GB was almost immune to unplanned leaks and rogue quotes, a remarkable record sustained over 10 years. That was in part due to our policy that unless a quote came from X, Y or Z, then we’d simply deny that it represented the Treasury view, where X was the Head of Communications (successively Peter Curwen, John Kingman, Michael Ellam, me, Paul Kissack and Chris Martin), Y was the Media Special Adviser (successively Charlie Whelan, Ian Austin and me), and Z was Gordon himself or either of the two Eds.

It was also due – and I take full credit/responsibility for this – to my Admiral Byng approach to leaks. If anything did appear in the papers that was not from X, Y or Z, I would instantly name a culprit. I’d try and choose someone who was a decent suspect, but their guilt didn’t really matter – it was the assertion of their guilt that mattered. They would be cut out of meetings, removed from the circulation list for emails, and wherever they walked in the Treasury, people would mutter about their demise. The effect of this was to make the actual guilty party feel guilty as hell, and put the fear of God into everyone else in the Treasury about doing any leaking themselves. As for the poor Admiral Byngs, they’d usually recover after a while, and some of them were probably guilty anyway."

There are good people and bad in all political parties, but this casual infliction of thoroughly unpleasant and probably career-damaging sanctions on human beings who were chosen arbitrarily as scapegoats but whose "guilt didn't reallty matter" is unusually amoral even for the worst politicians. What would we think of a business which was run like that? And for any Labour supporter who is tempted to defend such conduct, what would you say if a party you don't favour was run like that? It's wrong whoever does it and the worst thing is that McBride shows little if any remorse.


Jim said…
Like i have pointed out a few times, the days of this are over. people are scrutinising desisions all over the place.

they think we dont know inflation is just a tax, and when it looks too high its just measured differently.

The whole system at the moment is just a total Joke, you know that, I know that, and thanks to knowledge being able to be easily spred, other people are learning that too.

Its not enough to depend on bribing the BBC, or having the newspapers spread their drivel. Its clear from the get go. Government is getting to be very transparent, not through any policy, but by the common person. And no amount of blocking by "aiding government transparency" will stop that.

right now I can not put a cigarette paper between conservative, Labour, Lib dem. we were promised deficit reduction 80/20 what do we have? a rise in spending. The public will not fall for it for long.

I am not suggesting you post this on your blog, would probably advise you not to. but its true the people are waking up. it really does not matter anymore, the torys spend more than labour did but at least we had less tax. This enabled us to invest in other foreign shares and hard assets. Protecting us from the worst form of tax - imflation.

then to talk of people who try to protect themselves via tax avoidance schemes as immoral. well thats the icing on the ******* cake that.

stop over taxing, stop spending. We are in too much debt already. leave the EU cut the payments, let us again trade with the rest of the world, including europe. You see most people are now aware, governments are only trying to solve problems governments created, so in the end we are all pretty much better off without them. Sure some things need to be taxed, could be a bad world with no police, and nasty with no fire and rescue. But do we need an inefficent NHS, no - west cumbria would do much better as a private hospital. state funded education is ok, but why do private schools flurish?

Think the time has come now to admit all, get back to a true gold standard, forget it, well they made alot when they were at it, and let the market take over.

Jim said…
Ok you did post it, so now i need to defend the point I made about the NHS, no problem there.

Now in the first instance the NHS seems brilliant. But when you look at its vulnerability we notice its not so good. Sure as provider of health care its awesome. But, as we have seen this can be corrupted by governments.

Gordon brown was said to have invested in our hospitals and schools. Is that the case though?

Instead of bigger and better hospitals I saw an army of administrators and clerks, and other civil servants. I never really noticed an increase in doctors, nurses and medical equipment. I still don't see state owned and ran air ambulances (god knows we have paid enough to have them).

there in is the flaw with anything government ran. that is it is extremely vulnerable to changes in governments, providing new none jobs, which drain the system, a masquerade as an investment.
Chris Whiteside said…
Jim, I owe you an apology. As you know, I don't usually publish posts which suggest I don't publish them. I missed it this time - mea culpa - but in fact that suggestion was the only aspect of the post which breached my comments policy and practice. I don't necessarily agree with everything in either of the original comment but it comes within legitimate expression of strong opinions and I didn't think it was either offensive or actionable.

I was very busy in the run up to going to conference (hence the scarcity of posts that week) and was in a hurry when I checked the "awaiting moderation" box. I speed-read your post, and thought it made a number of very interesting points = particularly that technology and a greater willingness by ordinary citizens to "blow the whistle" is making the activities of government and big companies alike more transparent whether they wish it or not.

So I thought, "Yes, that should go up" and clicked the "publish" button without noticing that you had suggested I shouldn't.

Which teaches me a lesson to be more careful even when in a hurry.

In response to your second post: a common feature of virtually all the increases in spending on public services during the Blair and Brown administrations (and sadly far too many of their predecessors of both parties) was the "Parkinson's law factor."

Whenever New Labour hired more people, for every extra front line professional such as a policeman, doctor, dentist, nurse or teacher there were almost always about three administrators or support people.

And a major part of protecting public services while trying to cut the deficit - which has fallen by 25% since the coalition was formed incidentally, so there is some progress though we do need more - has to be reversing the trend to few people on the front line spending more of their time dealing with bureaucracy.

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