Coffee House

How McBride dripped poison into the system

20 September 2013

10:24 AM

20 September 2013

10:24 AM

If you want to know why Damian McBride was such a feared figure in Whitehall, read the section in his memoirs about how he sowed division between Charles Clarke, then the Home Secretary, and Louise Casey, the anti-social behaviour tsar. McBride’s approach was far more cunning than straight negative briefings or leaks. Rather, he went through the government grid looking for announcements in this policy area and then briefed them out to the papers in a way that made it sound like it had come from either Clarke or Casey’s teams.

The result was that both sides became convinced that the other was trying to take all the credit for what the government was doing on this front. This made an already bad relationship thoroughly dysfunctional and, as McBride says, played a part in Clarke’s downfall.

The McBride book is going to dominate the bar-room chat at Labour conference. It will, just as Ed Miliband is trying to talk about the future, make everyone in the Labour remember and — judging by Ben Wegg-Prosser’s decision to release Number 10’s anti-coup emails — refight past battles.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.

Show comments
  • James Strong

    Let’s not miss the point that both Clarke and Casey were each worried that the other one would get the credit. Politicians don’t do what they think is best; they do what they think is best for them.
    Perhaps I’m more extreme than some in my attitudes, but my default attitude to politicians is to despise them.
    I know that where credit goes is a real consideration for a lot of people, but I would have a quotation put up on every office wall. I think it comes from George W. Bush:
    ‘It’s amazing how much you can achieve if you don’t care who gets the credit.’

    • HookesLaw

      Heaven forbid they should have actually ‘talked’ to each other (assuming the gist of the article is true) – then they might have worked out what was going on.

    • Makroon

      I remember the constant press insinuations that Clarke was a drunken sot too befuddled to do his job. strange that McBride doesn’t confess to that one.

  • Rhoda Klapp8

    How disingenuous of Mr Forsyth and elsewhere Mr Nelson to report all this as if they did not know and participate. They knew what was going on, they participated in the great game of deception and fraud. They went along with it all. They could have told us, their customers, what was going on, but they traded their principles for access.

  • DavidL

    What a band of brothers! Indeed: what a band of brother-stabbers. It’s apparent that Ed Miliband was an apt pupil.

  • Martin Adamson

    And he could have done none of it without the active complicity of the press.

    • telemachus

      The Mail have also pulled a fast one by releasing it now

      • Colonel Mustard

        All’s fair when the political stakes are high, telemachus. Or do you think that only applies to your Red Gang?

  • Swiss Bob

    Under English law, misconduct (or misfeasance) in public office is an offence at common law.

    The offence carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. It is confined to those who are public office holders, and is committed when the office holder acts (or neglects to act) in a way that constitutes a breach of the duties of that office.

    The Crown Prosecution Service guidelines on this offence say that the elements of the offence are when:

    A public officer acting as such.

    Willfully neglects to perform his duty and/or willfully misconducts himself.

    To such a degree as to amount to an abuse of the public’s trust in the office holder.

    Without reasonable excuse or justification.

    The similarly named malfeasance (or misfeasance) in public office is a tort. In the House of Lords judgement on the BCCI Malfeasance Case it was held that this had 3 essential elements:

    The defendant must be a public officer

    The defendant must have been exercising his power as a public officer

    The defendant is either exercising targeted malice or exceeding his powers

    “Misconduct in public office” is often but inaccurately rendered as “misconduct in A public office”, which would mean something different.

    String him up!

    • Colonel Mustard

      So perhaps the ever ready Mr Starmer might explain why there are no prosecutions? Wouldn’t really fit with his political agenda would it.

      • Swiss Bob

        Nah, Starmer’s as bent as most of his predecessors.

        That’s why they banned private prosecutions.

        • Colonel Mustard

          He goes next month and good riddance. But unfortunately Grieve the Idiot seems to have let him stitch up a clone as replacement.

          • HookesLaw

            Do ministers have a role in the appointmenmt of the DPP? (I simply ask)
            Starmer was a barrister in private practice and a human rights lawyer.
            His replacment is
            a woman
            an existing crown prosecutor since 1986
            In both respects not a clone.

            • Colonel Mustard

              The holder of the role is appointed by the Attorney General on the recommendation of a panel that includes the First Civil Service Commissioner. Who said anything about Ministers?

              It is Grieve though, who is a Tory MP. He should have purged Starmer on coming into office.

    • salieri

      and DB’s public office was what?

      • Swiss Bob

        He was a civil servant you thicky:

        Damian McBride (born 1974) is a former Whitehall civil servant and former special adviser to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. McBride began his civil service career at HM Customs and Excise. He worked with Customs and Excise and rose to prominence as Head of Communications at the UK Treasury until 2008.