Coffee House

Coffee House Exclusive: McBride joins CAFOD

22 February 2011

9:00 AM

22 February 2011

9:00 AM











The penance of Damian McBride continues. After being ejected from No10, and disowned by his mentor Ed Balls, I can reveal that our antihero now has a new job – head of media at the Catholic overseas aid charity CAFOD. He will be doubtless be brilliantly effective at briefing against its enemies (in CAFOD’s case, hunger and the devil). I imagine the pay is several leagues below what he’d get from cashing in on his notoriety and publishing a hit man’s confessions.

The weird thing is that McBride could have done so well, had he steered clear of Balls. He was a Treasury civil servant, specialising in VAT, before Balls trained him up in the art of character assassination. Balls and Brown plucked him, Mowgli-like, and made him their hit man. But he was (and is) intelligent, cheerful, hardworking, and amiable to those he regarded as useful. He would build alliances with unlikely media partners.

But what McBride had a genius for was gossip: working out which nuggets of info are useful to journalists. Not embarrassing stuff, but examples of (say) Brown setting off the burglar alarm on his way to some weirdly early start to the day. The type of anecdote which lifts a column, gives it colour – and is gold dust to columnists. If McBride was your source, you didn’t need very many others.

He went because of Guido’s sting. But he took the entire rap for the thuggishness and nastiness of the Brown operation – and wrongly so. He was a graduate of the Brown-Balls school of character assassination and intimidation. Now, only Balls remains. And many members Labour MPs have not forgiven him.

As for McBride, he’s done his time. For almost two years he has been ‘business liaison officer’ at Finchley Catholic High School (he was interviewed by pupils for the job). Now CAFOD. One wonders if he has any plans to climb further up the Catholic hierarchy – aged just 37, there’s plenty of time.

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Show comments
  • 2tricky

    He taught me politics at finchley catholic and he is one of the best and well rounded human beings I have ever met
    Brilliant man! Simple as

  • Dominic

    BTW He teaches me politics (so stuff your “dream school” where the sun don’t shine Jamie Oliver), actually a nice guy, and he does a decent impression of Gordon.

    But he drinks a hell of a lot of Diet Coke and Highland Spring.

  • Doctor Mick

    And let him keep his elbows away from a man’s pint.

  • David Booth

    Chairman of Selectors.

    Yes I agree with your comments 100%.
    However unlike your wife I will be reviewing my donations to Cafod, If they can afford to to employ a nasty piece of work like McBride then they don’t need my money.
    As to his salary I suspect that senior management at Caford subscribe to the idea that charity begins at home and tend to reward themselves handsomely.

  • StOlaf

    you really should sub your copy better. sloppy.

  • Chairman of Selectors

    CAFOD’s position on climate chage is a predictable disgrace. Claiming to work to fight poverty, then denying those same third world countries access to cheap, efficient, reliable energy is scandalous. Like any other activitst organisation, they have been hi-jcaked by the left and exist for political purposes. It is depressing the catholic church lets these shysters get away with it. Most depressing of all, my wife donates to them every month, which drives me bonkers.

  • Andrew Webb

    “Ye shall know them by their fruits”

    A period of time elapsing and a change of career is hardly a proper test of character. Sociopaths make strenuous efforts to maintain an image of respectability, but never admit their evil to themselves.

    Has this modern-day Judas ever apologized to any of those whose reputation he destroyed?

    Don’t judge a tree by its flowers, but by the “fruit” it bears. The same goes for any pretensions to religion. A profession may outwardly look respectable; but it is the man’s conduct (“fruit”) that determine whether or not the man is a reformed character, or still a sly, sneaky, lying son of a bitch.

  • 2trueblue

    Tom Tom. Profumo was indiscreet and his downfall was he subsequently lied to parliament. There is no comparison at all between him and McBride.

  • Woody

    I agree with an earlier post that you must have been the recipient of some of his juicy gossip to write such a sympathetic piece.
    This man, along with others, was responsible for one of the most vile and dirtiest smear campaigns ever to be unleashed on political opponents. (and their families). It was days away from being circulated on the blogosphere, where no-one would have known where it originiated.
    If I remember rightly wasn’t Kevin Maguire and various union leaders involved in a ‘strategy’ meeting?
    What a bunch of unspeakable individuals.
    Find something more palatable to write about, it’s not exactly a slow news week.

  • Cynic

    I fear it’ll take a bit more than a few Hail Marys to wash McBride’s sins away and grant him absolution. After all, first you must make full confession and then repent. Where’s the evidence for that?

  • Smig

    For all his attempts at atonement I can’t stop wondering how long it will take him to start smearing the likes of Oxfam and Comic Relief.

  • Andy Carpark

    In the playground of Finchley Catholic High School, there is a Victorian khazi that should have been demolished decades ago. A stinking, ‘orrible, old khazi.

    McBride used to go and eat his flaming lunch in there.

    (Reckon he used to take a few jazz mags in there with him an’ all, the dirty rotter.)

  • The Laughing Cavalier

    The reason he was plucked Mowgli-like from the Treasury by the thuggish and nasty Brown-Balls operation was, quite simply, because he shared their thuggishness and nastiness. They didn’t need to corrupt him. If you believe that a mere two years is sufficient atonement Frasier, then you have fallen victim to the cults of celebrity and the Westminster Village whereby just saying sorry atones for all sins. This vicious brute needs another decade of public service before he can be considered to have paid his debt to society. As for CAFOD, one despairs of Eccleston Square.

  • Peter Grimes

    Love the ‘Mowgli like’!

    McDoom and Bollox as two fat Orang Utans is perfect casting!

  • Simon Stephenson

    TomTom : 11.13am

    Yes, we eagerly await evidence that McBride is following the Profumo path of atonement, and not just that of career resurrection.

  • Naomi Muse

    I find it disturbing that this man can now be being praised when he along with Balls and Brown were perpetrators of such nasty and unbecoming behaviour at the expense of the people they were paid to serve.

    As to CAFOD, that is also a source of suspicion, for we are not meant to have nationally subsidised religions other than CofE and there is a disconnect between what is right and what is happening.

  • louseandflea

    CAFOD. Oh, that would be the “charity” that gets £9.5m a year from the taxpayer to, among other things, fulfill its “core function” of lobbying the government, wouldn’t it?
    McBride should be home there.

  • 2trueblue

    McBride, Bliar, Balls. They all chose to be in the group with Browm. There is a saying ‘Show me your friends and I will show you who you are’. We all know what they have shown themselves to be.

  • Simon Stephenson

    CB : 9.54am

    Yes, I remember reading the passage asserting this in Powell’s book. It’s clear that Brown had a malign influence on all those around him, but at the end of the day, they all chose to join him and stay with him, didn’t they?

    It’s like Tony Blair – he chose to have Brown as his Chancellor of the Exchequer, he had the power to dismiss him at any time and yet he chose not to do so. Perhaps he saw Brown’s sociopathic ruthlessness as more of an asset than a liability – or maybe he was just afraid of what would happen to him, personally, if he didn’t surrender to it.

  • Simon Stephenson

    As an addendum to my 10.53am post, I’d like to make clear that this is in no way personal animosity against McBride, Brown, Balls or the rest of them. But I think that if one is prepared to forgive and forget quite as easily and automatically as Fraser seems to be, then one is extending a carte blanche to the sort of behaviour that many of us find intolerable. The Gordon Brown clique needs to be ostracised and hung out to dry not so much as retribution for what they did, but as a very clear message to all the Sons of Brown out there will be no getting away with any repetition of it.

  • Steve

    Tony Blair is the Patron Saint of “selective Catholicism”.

  • In2minds

    McBride – Was he the source for Nethergate? Still waiting.


    If Guido’s friend Damian really did want to atone, he would sell the memoir of his time in the bunker and donate the proceeds to CAFOD.

    As it is, the suspicion must be that his reluctance to come clean about his time with the Brown mafia is because he and Balls still foresee his return and all this CAFOD stuff is merely to cleanse his way back.

    A full and complete confession obviously plays no part in Damian’s selective Catholicism.

  • TomTom

    He might have the qualities that made John Profumo such an amazing man after he resigned from politics….let us wait and see !

  • Simon Stephenson

    “The weird thing is that McBride could have done so well, had he steered clear of Balls. He was a Treasury civil servant, specialising in VAT, before Balls trained him up in the art of character assassination. Balls and Brown plucked him, Mowgli-like, and made him their hit man. But he was (and is) intelligent, cheerful, hardworking, and amiable to those he regarded as useful. He would build alliances with unlikely media partners.”

    This having been said, he still chose to follow the path that led to him becoming one of the Brown/Balls hit men. He still had the capacity to admit to himself that yes, he was prepared to treat other people in the way his new job demanded.

    I should have thought that the most prudent way to assess him is from the point of view that his outlook on fellow humans will not have changed, and that advancing causes by knifing others in the back is, to him, just part and parcel of everyday life.

    The reality is that the chances of his fundamental attitude having changed is a 100-1 shot. He’s demonstrated the behaviour to be expected of him if he’s given an opportunity to exhibit it, and so the key thing for the future wellbeing of the rest of us is that he should be denied that opportunity.

    The same applies, of course, to Mr Brown and the rest of his entourage.

  • In2minds

    Anecdotes, I like the one about the loaves and fishes, that was turned into a cracking good story. Proper journalism that, not like this awful modern stuff.

  • Major Plonquer 1

    One wonders if he has any plans to climb further up the Catholic hierarchy….

    In his mind he believes that there are only two more steps and he’ll be God.

  • Rhoda Klapp

    The sort of cosy relationship which is described here between political briefers and journalists is a Smithian conspiracy against the public. And you are all at it.

  • Chris lancashire

    One suspects from your piece that you may have, on occasion, been the recepient of the odd crumb from the McBride table.

    You are however correct that McBride was only doing what he thought, or was told, was Balls’ or Brown’s wish. What those two built on the foundations laid by Blair and Campbell should become a monument to the damage done to British politics through their briefings, bullying and dishonesty.

  • General Zod

    Now the Church believes in confession, repentance, forgiveness and redemption, but I fear that it is being naive in accepting that McBride has repented.

  • CB

    Interesting. Jonathan Powell, formerly Tony Blair’s Chief of Staff, thought that Balls too had been transformed by his relationship with Brown. He wrote that he went from a perfectly nice FT leader writer to a rude, bruising, venomous practitioner of the dark arts.

  • TrevorsDen

    We must beware the source – but Wikipedia says…
    ‘he read History, and wrote a final-year dissertation in praise of inciting violence and rumour-mongering in politics entitled Far More Important Than Politics? Public Policy and the Impact of Urban Riots, 1964-8. The thesis was supervised by Tony Badger, who later commented “We disagreed over the value of the riots – I thought they were counter-productive – but he was very focused’

  • Marbury

    “If McBride was your source, you didn’t need very many others.”

    Because you knew he spoke only the truth?

  • TrevorsDen

    Far to generous for opponents who would stitch you up as soon al look at you.

    Your as ‘bad’ as the otherwise estimable Mr Dale.

  • 2trueblue

    Lets hope that he can help the charity prosper. I lack the ability to change my opinion of him, yet. But time will tell. The type of shinanagins he got up to with Balls/Brown are addictive and none of change our methods easily. But who are we to judge when he and Bliar seek the cloak of the Catholic Church?

  • ScotiaNostra

    37! He looks at least 57. New Labour, bad for your skin.

  • Guido Fawkes

    I think we have to give the man credit, he perhaps realises that under the influence of malevolent mentors like the son of the manse and Ed Balls he became something to which no decent person can aspire.

    I will give him the benefit of the doubt for as long as stays out of politics. We should wish him well. AMDG