Coffee House

Finally – Damian McBride provides the Labour confession we’ve been waiting for

20 September 2013

10:34 AM

20 September 2013

10:34 AM

‘Drug use; spousal abuse; secret alcoholism; extra-marital affairs. I estimate I did nothing with 95 per cent of the stories I was told. But, yes, some of them ended up on the front pages of Sunday newspapers.’ And with this starts the serialisation of what will be perhaps the most explosive book about British politics for ten years. Damian McBride’s memoirs look every bit as good as I had hoped. The Daily
Mail serialisation today
gives a taste of what should really be called ‘confessions of a political hit man’ – the methods and motives of Team Brown, perhaps most ruthless and effective bunch of character assassins that Westminster has ever seen. I was one of McBride’s targets rather than his clients, so it is from no sense of friendship or loyalty that I say he is something of a genius. Even when sending me an email basically telling me I’d never work in this town again, I admired the quality of his writing and the richness of the content. (The email was so informative that I based an entire Spectator cover story out of it). And what inspired him? Damian tells us:-

‘Until I completely lost my way at the end, everything I did as Gordon’s spin doctor, I did out of devotion, out of loyalty and out of some degree of love for the greatest man I ever met.’

Obviously, McBride needed to get out more. It ought to be remembered that he was a civil servant, who adapted to the art of political warfare better than anyone in the Labour Party. As he puts it:

‘I offered [Gordon Brown] the best press he could hope for, unrivalled intelligence about what was going on in the media and access to parts of the Press that no other Labour politician could reach. And my attack operations against his Labour rivals and Tory enemies were usually both effective and feared, with me willingly taking all the potential risk and blame. When I started writing this memoir, I was warned by an old colleague that — whatever I did — I should not admit to ‘doing in’ any Labour MPs or Ministers, because: “Even though people know you did, confirming it will make you a pariah for life.” I decided to ignore that advice precisely because I regret — or have retrospective reservations about – the vast majority of what I did.’


And that’s why the book is worth reading. Civil servants are supposed to be politically neutral – and McBride was! He hardly ever turned his formidable firepower on Tories. His battles were red-on-red. Here’s what he says about Charles Clarke.

‘For several weeks in succession in 2005 when Charles Clarke was Home Secretary and a declared opponent of Gordon’s succession to the premiership, I orchestrated what looked like a briefing war between Charles and Tony Blair’s anti-social behaviour guru, Louise Casey. Each of them in turn appeared to goad the other by making some new announcement on the subject through the Sunday papers, or appearing to claim advance credit for something the other was planning to announce. There was already plenty of ill-feeling between them, but the briefings made it both public and self-fulfilling, contributing to Tony Blair’s sacking of Charles in May 2006. At a drink with Charles’s press team after the reshuffle, they were bitter about Louise’s role in undermining their boss and so oblivious of my role that they happily supplied details of how Tony Blair had been in tears when he told Charles the news, a bit of colour I obviously then briefed to the papers.’

What intrigues me is that his cover features four men: one of them Ed Balls. The same Ed Balls who tried to deny the closeness of his friendship with McBride when it all blew up. Will Balls’s involvement in the Brown black-ops operation become clear in the book? It’s published on Tuesday, on the day of Balls’ speech. Ah the games, the games…

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Show comments
  • Druth

    ‘Until I completely lost my way at the end, everything I did as Gordon’s spin doctor, I did out of devotion, out of loyalty and out of some degree of love for the greatest man I ever met.’

    I confess I am totally out of my depths here.

  • joshuafalken

    McBride’s girlfriend, Balshan Izzett was Ed Ball’s rottweiler fixer while in office and now manages his events in Labour Party HQ.

    Will she feature in the book?

  • John Clegg

    This just shows the pus, filth and poison emanating from Gordon Brown and his acolytes during their time in Downing Street.

    In better times, Brown would be brought before us to answer for his stewardship of the economy. He was a man totally unsuited to be Prime Minister and it reflects badly on all those who allowed it.

    • ButcombeMan

      It does and we need a David Frost to interview him and get a confession.

      • John Clegg

        Or better still, save time just get a length of piano wire and use the nearest street lamp.

  • paulus

    Well he will be deeply ashamed of himself, He goes to church every Sunday.and is a practicing Catholic..apparently.Lets just leave it at that,a conscience is a greater court room than we could construct.

    • Mark Cooper

      Surely he’d go up in flames if he tried to cross the threshold?

    • sarah

      What is worse is that he is employed by CAFOD

  • Agrippina

    Odd that McBride (most able spin doc apparently) thought that Brown was the greatest man he had ever met. Yet he could not see that Brown could not connect with the voters at all, equally foolish Balls and Miliband for pushing him forward when he was never the person for the top job.

    Now Miliband the younger struggling to make much of an impact too, perhaps they should look more closely at why they think they are so brilliant amongst their friends but utterly hopeless with the public. (legend in their own lunch break but that is about it).

    Not interested in the public or the good of the country at all. The little poisoned dwarf Blears another example of the same.

    Much the same is true of all the westminster lot, try something new UKIP maybe.

  • Prince Rupert

    You journalists knew what was going on and took the shilling to keep quiet. the country was consumed with spin, a polite way of lieing, and all the Journalists, with the exception of The Daily Mail, which was ridiculed itself as a spin campaign, bought into the Blair/Campbell/Brown lie. A bad government, lots of corruption, terrible mismanagement of affaires, and even Fraser bought it – hook, line and sinker. Our democracy was at risk, opposition MPs being arrested in the HoP, and people like Fraser kept on avoiding the truth. Damien McBride was horrible, as were Blair and Brown, and now the truth is coming out. McBride has guilt and has confessed and is asking for forgiveness, so we forgive. This period of government will be judged in later years as a disgrace, and Blair will be judged for what he is and always will be, a selfish opportunist, out for the fame, and the cash. There is no integrity, a party kept in power because of the weakness and compliance of the press, including Fraser and his chums. Will Fraser ask for forgiveness, somehow I doubt.

    • Ridcully

      Spot on. The Daily Mail, for all its faults, was the one newspaper that refused to join the Blair/New Labour love-in that followed 1997. In fact there were times, with the Conservatives still reeling from defeat, that the Mail seemed like the de facto opposition. Of course such insubordination could not go unpunished, which is why the Mail received, and still receives, abuse and ridicule way out of proportion to its shortcomings. I don’t think that there is a single episode of “Have I got News for You” or “Mock the Week” ever shown without at least one obligatory dig at the paper- those guys really are fearless aren’t they?

  • CortUK

    McBride tells all.

    Cui bono?

  • FrenchNewsonlin

    Its no laughing matter and certainly no game Mr Nelson.The sordid McPoison as he is better known and his tribe of lying, dangerous and evil meddlers are the gruesome face of Catastrophe Brown’s party. Thanks to the sort of irresponsible games you blithely refer to, these charlatans have left future generations in the UK saddled with debt that can never be repaid. Furthermore reckless stewardship of the City means their ‘financial poison’ — helped by New York banking rogues — spread across the world leaving us flailing in Year Five of a global crisis without end. Some game eh!

  • zanzamander

    He got Brown there, but despite his shenanigans and dark art, couldn’t keep him there. Brown, throughout his tenure as PM, was reviled by everybody until eventually he got booted out in ignominy.

    But there is a much more dangerous side to this. It shows how democracy has become a tool for manipulators, lobbyists and basically anyone with a fat wallet. We are ruled by people who do not have the best interest of this country at heart but by those who have been put there by self interest groups and people who want to bring this country down.

    If McBride did nothing with 95% of stories he was told (and I take it that these were not altogether complementary ones) then it only shows that our whole political class has been compromised in one way another and many of these people are sitting in the commons bidding for their masters.

  • McRobbie

    Now if thats not nasty then what is? And dont think the current liebore party is much better…ref millie the backstabber..mccluskey the puppet master and balls the … no one?

  • Francis P

    This piece is about about a political hack making copy out of a political thug, who post facto is making money from writing a book about the machinations of his corrupt political paymasters. Par for the course – and who cares? Apart from those whose lives are encapsulated in the Westminster bubble, of course. What you are doing for the Berkeley Brothers is no better or worse that what McBride did for his clients. It’s called journalistic whoring. For cash or in kind – and promotion of same. How much did he pay for the advertising inches here? Or rather what’s the quid pro quo? I suppose brown envelopes are infra dig these days. Hypocrites all!

    What outfit is publishing the tome?

    • Francis P

      I’ll answer my own question:

      Take a look at the ‘authors’ list. Hmmnn. If the devil could cast his net … (he wouldn’t need a bigger one than that necessary to encompass the Wanker Works of Westminster).

  • Jambo25

    2 words to gloating Tories; Andy Coulson.

    • CortUK

      Works both ways doesn’t it? How can Labour have spent the last three years lecturing the country on morals and ethics at the top of the political machine when they ran two units in Downing Street: one to destroy the careers of Labour challengers to Brown, and one to destroy the careers and lives of Conservative opponents of Labour, and their wives/families (the Red Rag scandal, quietly forgotten by the media and commentators).

    • Colonel Mustard

      Tories don’t usually gloat. That’s Labour that is.

      • Mynydd

        What’s your view of Mr Cameron and Mr Coulson? I can’t wait to hear what will come out in court and how Mr Cameron/Crosby will spin it. No doubt it will be all Labour’s fault, If Labour hadn’t had Mr McBride we would not needed a Coulson

        • Colonel Mustard

          I agree that it usually always is Labour’s fault but there has been a remarkable reversal of that for many a long year.

          What was that you were saying about being politically neutral?

          PS I loathe Cameron.

          • Nicholas chuzzlewit

            So do I but in the absence of a proper Tory, I would vote for him every day of the week rather than help to subject my country to another dose of the dishonest, rancid, amoral filth on the cover of that book.

    • Jambo25

      CortUK and Colonel Mustard. I’m not defending Labour; just pointing out that bad behaviour appears to be rife throughout the “Westminster Village” amongst both pols and journos. The whole system needs a knotted towel taken through it.

      One very swift example. I’m not a supporter of either Farage or UKIP but I was genuinely shocked at seeing ex-teachers of Farage producing what should have been confidential in-school communications, from 30 odd years ago, in order to discredit Farage. This was so unethical that I cannot believe ex staff of Dulwich College would have done this off their own bat. I suspect that there were Tory or pro Tory journalistic paws involved.

      • Colonel Mustard


      • Mynydd

        Were these ex-teachers given the go ahead by Mr Grove?

        • Jambo25

          I doubt it would have been Gove but I wouldn’t care to speculate who it might have been. Possibly someone in a Tory research or support office we’ve never heard of. As for the ex-Dulwich College staff who did it. They are despicable. They’ve also set a very dangerous trend.

    • Jambo25

      It should have been 4 words. Andy Coulson, Lynton Crosby.

  • James B

    They are vile.

  • Hexhamgeezer

    ‘retrospective reservations’?

    Bloodless pyschopathic Stalinist spin.

  • salieri

    Not games, Fraser, not formidable firepower, not even spin – just lies.
    The man is so disgusted by what he did that he couldn’t possibly bring himself to make money from all that sensationalism, scandal and prurience; he’s going to donate all the proceeds of his confession to charity…. no, I must have imagined reading that somewhere else.

    • 2trueblue

      McBride has told only what he wants to tell…….. for now. He may need to tell us more later, if the price is right.

  • Normandee

    Ah but it’s only a game eh Fraser ?, for the entertainment of the London elite, with the rest of the uk to send the bill to. Glad you are having fun and a nice life, don’t worry we will pick up the tab.

    • Makroon

      Well said, young Fraser Nelson contemplates pure evil sleaze and calls it “sophistication”. For shame.

  • crafnah

    And this fellow is still alive…..

  • roger

    That cover could make the best Conservative Party poster ever if done properly, better than ‘Labour’s not Working’.

    • Colonel Mustard

      Agreed. Remove the name Damian McBride, insert the words ‘New Labour 1997-2010’ above ‘Power Trip’ and ‘Destructive’ between ‘of’ and ‘Policy’.

      New Labour in a nutshell and a perfect Warning From History for the more stupid sections of the electorate.

    • Hexhamgeezer

      Title ;

      ‘3 Men & A Baby’

  • wycombewanderer

    Please let it come out that this shower of hypocrites were hacking each others phones. With Morgan in the game it’s an entirely plausible source for many of the smears.

  • Colonel Mustard

    Oh, look who is on the cover. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and two of them want to ride out again.

  • Pootles

    My comment has just been moderated, so I’ll try the pithy bits again – ‘what utter bags of sh**e they are’, and ‘throw all of the b*st*ards out’.

  • Peter Stroud

    I imagine Messrs Miliband, Balls and Alexander are very, very worried men. Have a good conference, boys!

    • telemachus

      On the contrary
      It gives us a sense of how power can be exercised for the good
      Damian was instrumental in ridding us of warmonger Blair
      Whatever else you think of him he did the country a service by that alone

      • Pootles

        And gave us the warmonger’s money man, i.e., the man who made it possible. Power ‘exercised for good’ ? – but, clearly, nothing at all to do with democracy and transparency.

      • exile on euro street

        Telemachus – The words frying-pan and fire spring to mind.

      • Colonel Mustard

        But in 1997 your lot clamoured around Blair as The Saviour. “Things can only get better”, “Cool Britannia”, etc.

        And now you are bleating that your faith was misplaced but to trust you this time that the same members of his gang, proven in their duplicitous conniving, are the new Saviours.

        Incredible doesn’t really cut it. But so amusing how you people attempt to re-write your history to distance yourself from your own crimes. And staggering how any sentient being would swallow it – but they do.

        And power exercised for good? Yes, Lenin, Stalin, Castro, Mao, Pol Pot and Couseceau all thought the same and all with the same result. The egality of misery and the reality of many innocent deaths.

        Poisonous reptiles, all of you, especially those like you who don’t understand the meaning of pluralism in politics or democracy but who think you always know best, that you have some divine right to rule over us and when out of power will do anything, by any means to bring that about, including putting the whole country at risk.

      • Hello

        “everything I did as Gordon’sspin doctor, I did out of devotion, out of loyalty and out of some
        degree of love for the greatest man I ever met”

        I’m hardly surprised that you’re out batting for Damian. Still, he is an accomplished spin-doctor, and we shouldn’t forget that the person whose character is most damaged by all this is really Gordon’s…his administration will be remembered as one of British politic’s darkest hours.

      • HookesLaw

        Again yo show what a peacnik appeasing pacifist lot labour are.

      • MikeBrighton

        The foetid smell of the last 2 Labour governments still hangs in the air clinging to the clothes of patsy journalists and the BBC who did nothing to illuminate their disgraceful behaviour debasing our once great democracy