Coffee House

The confessions of Damian McBride

24 September 2013

8:19 PM

24 September 2013

8:19 PM

The first copies of Damian McBride’s book dropped in Brighton today, and the former spinner has been explaining not just his actions in government but why on earth he decided to write about them. Here are the highlights of his confessions:

Nearly everything the former spin doctor has said so far suggests he is quite contrite about his actions. On Newsnight last night, McBride said of his ‘victims’:

‘I do feel ashamed, I do feel sorry to those individuals whose careers I affected and even more so to the sort of innocent bystanders who were caught in the way’

McBride has also denied Alastair’s Campbell claim he broke the law (£) through the leaking of confidential documents:

‘I was always very careful about this during the years that I wasn’t committing any criminal offences. For example I go great lengths to explain how I would not leak classified documents, and I would take pains to avoid leaking it. I would be happy to talk to the police if they wanted an explanation.’


Much has been asked of how much Gordon Brown knew of his actions. McBride suggests very little:

‘I don’t think he knew what I was doing a lot of the time, I operated quite a lot in the shadows, I spent a lot of time just in pubs with different journalists and doing that kind of operation

‘I think what Gordon always knew that he got from me was media intelligence that was unparalleled, and access to difft bits of the media that pols couldn’t reach. Frankly he never asked the question ‘how did you pull this off?’ because he just assumed that this was based on my personal relationship with the journalists’

To his credit, McBride has remained loyal to Brown, despite the publication of this tell-all book. Brown receives the dedication ‘To Gordon, the greatest man I ever met. Thanks for all you did’. In return, the former Prime Minister refused to answer questions on McBride.

McBride has also responded to Douglas Alexander (again) on the Daily Politics for his supposed ‘destructive briefing’ while admitting that ‘politics needs conflict’:

‘I think for Douglas to say that he has never engaged in any kind of divisive or destructive briefing, I don’t think is accurate. You will remember the damaging story that came out about Gordon Brown seeking five separate meetings with President Obama in September 2009 – that story came from someone working for Douglas Alexander.’

And finally, McBride has attempted to protect Miliband and Balls, stating neither were aware of how he carried out his briefing operations:

‘They assumed that the reason I had these close relationships with journalists and I was able to influence what came out in the media was just because of investing time in those relationships. I was the one that was willing to go and spend time, all afternoon in the pub with Sunday journalists in the hope of producing good stories. They didn’t know, there was no way those journalists were going to spend their bar tab on me unless I was feeding them stories.’

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Show comments
  • In2minds

    Damian McBride – “I would be happy to talk to the police if they wanted an explanation” –

    Don’t bother, they are too busy delving into the Jimmy Savile case!

  • timinsingapore

    Brown + Miliband + Balls = multidimensional hypocrisy. But lets learn to like them, as thanks to UKIP, Labour will win the next election.

  • David Lindsay

    He has had his 15 minutes, and then some.

    • telemackus

      Only a fool would believe that Brown, Miliband and Balls were not aware or instigating the sleeze and slime perpetrated by this man. Hi fool.

      • David Lindsay

        Who cares? It was the past. The media are still flogging this one, because it is about them. Everyone else wants to talk about freezing energy prices for 20 months.

        • telemackus

          And again.

        • Chris lancashire

          It’s about trust.

          • David Lindsay

            It’s not about anything apart from media self-obsession. They have tried to turn this into the story of the week, and they have failed miserably, although they are still at it. Real people want to talk about real things.

            • telemackus

              This was 6th form socialism with a bunch of ill-thought policies that will unravel within days. Depression and defeat will ensue after ill-deserved euphoria. It would take a heart of stone not to laugh out loud. I have been laughing since I heard Wallace deliver his Kinnochian suicide note.

              • David Lindsay

                But he is still going to win. And you know it. Look what he has to beat.

                Is Cameron seriously going to stand up next week, another week nearer to winter, and announce that he is against the energy price freeze?

                Is he seriously going to say that he is opposed to the housebuilding programme?

                In that accent of his, and surrounded by his schoolmates and Bullingdon Club associates?

                He was going to lose, anyway. But the cake is well and truly iced now.

                • telemackus

                  Of course you are right. National Socialists always are. How foolish of me to think I would know more than you oh exalted and infallible one. Night nurse.

                • David Lindsay

                  Point proved.

                  It is hilarious to watch the Tories having a nervous breakdown 18 months before they have even lost. (Or lost again. You didn’t win last time, either. You haven’t since 1992.) What are you going to be like once the results are in?

                • The_greyhound

                  Laughing at you.

                • David Lindsay

                  Hysterical, I don’t doubt that.

                  But then, you already are. You will have to reach some stage beyond mere hysteria.

                • The_greyhound

                  Interestingly Labour’s mate, Peter Kellner at YouGov says otherwise.

                  The electorate doesn’t rate Miliband as a potential PM, and doesn’t believe Labour can be trusted with the economy. And no Government has yet been elected carrying both of those black marks. Miliband is just Foot without the wit or sartorial elegance.

                • David Lindsay

                  Labour’s mate, Peter Kellner

                  Ask them in the Labour Party about YouGov. Go on. Ask them.

                • 2trueblue

                  After 13yrs your chaps did nothing to protect us against fuel prices rising and even worse Liebore did nothing to secure our future energy supplies. As for housing, the record shows that Liebore did not perform well when it came to building over 13yrs. and at a time when they were busy increasing the population.

            • Fergus Pickering

              Real people? Who do you mean? Is Gordon Brown a cardboard cut-out? This man ran the country for years. Are we supposed to forget about it because Milllipede says he will cut energy prices?. What this story shows is that you can SAY anything.

              • David Lindsay

                You’re not, I suppose. But you are not exactly a target voter.

                • Fergus Pickering

                  Usual Labour contempt for the ordinary man. I am not one, but I live two doors down from Albert. seventy years old, ex-army, who is. And he is not taken in by your lot, I can tell you, or with fatuous promises of jam tomorrow. I have no idea who he votes for, or who his son, NCO, decorated for service in Iraq, votes for either. Or his daughter, deaf but gainfully employed. Or hs wife, amateur painter and bird-watcher. Are they target voters? Not a degree between the lot of them.

                • David Lindsay

                  He lives two doors down from you, then he is not ordinary, either. By your own admission.

                • Fergus Pickering

                  Lindsay, you know nothing about where I live. Most people in my road are working class. I am not, it is true.

            • ButcombeMan

              Actually what it is really about is corruption & gross incompetence at the heart of the Labour government project.

              Brown was, sadly, utterly flawed and incompetent, as an individual and a politician. Many in Labour understood that at the time but no one had the guts to call it as it was. He was a bully and McPoison did his bullying.

              The whole saga says an awful lot about Labour.

              No wonder you and others of your persuasion want to move on.

              Under Red Ed, the story WILL BE, about Union control of a puppet..

              Note I said “will be”, I confidentlly predict it.

        • Hello

          You guys are going to be obliterated at the next election. It’s exasperating that you don’t realise it. Britain can do better — it deserves a better class of opposition. How can a shadow cabinet, comprised of MPs with ministerial experience, make such stupid mistakes again and again and again?

          • David Lindsay

            The Tory Boy press and think tank pack is clearly several sheets to the wind in Brighton tonight.

            I’m not surprised.

            • Hello

              You’re going into an election against the media, against business, against public opinion on welfare, against the “kind of recovery”, with a bad economic record, one of the worst PR operations an opposition has ever had, and an indecisive leader preaching a failed ideology that peaked 30 years ago and you think you’re going to win?

              When the Conservatives were in opposition, at least they had a successful ideology to preach and only a tainted economic record.

              • David Lindsay

                We know that we are going to win. And so do you.

                As this kind of thing has just been described somewhere else, you are like a bully who is talking tough but whose lower lip is trembling.

                You know that you have lost. You already behave as if you were in Opposition. Increasingly, everyone behaves as if Labour were in Government, with councils of all hues stopping the enforcement of the Bedroom Tax this week because it was as good as abolished, and that kind of thing.

                • Hello

                  No. I don’t understand why Miliband wanted people to know that he was a “socialist”. He could have put down his policies without the quote from that fringe. Now there is no differential between his policies and that ideology, and he cannot deny that he said it. That dead ideology. It’s one thing for Blair to say it when his policies are moving away from it, but not the same thing to say it when you intend to reinstate it.

                  It has a bad record. He’s pitted himself into a fight that every Tory has been wanting to relive for 30 years, and the vast majority of the Labour party have been trying to forget — to forget that they lost and why they lost. Why would you do that? How could you be so stupid to start a fight that your opponent has already prepped?

                  It has already been settled. Civilisations do not go back on themselves to reconsider the past.

                  The LibDems cannot go into coalition with Labour anymore — it’s much too fundamentally opposed to what they have done in this parliament. The Conservatives only have to achieve a workable coalition majority in order for it to be preferential.

                • David Lindsay

                  Labour was never constitutionally a “Socialist” party until 1995, when Tony Blair wrote the word into the new Clause IV. It had never been there before. Blair even put it on the back of every membership card.

                  Anyone who knows the Labour Party from the inside knows that “Socialism” means whatever the person speaking happens to think. Literally nothing else. That was what it meant to Tony Blair. That is what it means to Ed Miliband. That is what it means to anyone, including you. Or me. That, and that alone.

                  Personally, I now avoid the S-word if at all possible in this country. It gets in the way of discussing specific policies and strategies, and it only ever means whatever the person using it happens to want it to mean.

                  But a workable Tory majority in 2015? I am laughing out loud, and I have not even had a drink yet. Define “Socialism” as the contents of today’s speech, and you might see how it is rather less of a scare word to culturally British than to, as almost all Tories now are, culturally American people.

                  It is still better avoided, though. It gets in the way. Although only a bit. Not a lot.

                • ButcombeMan

                  You have missed the point, it is not what YOU think the word means that is important, it is what the media and the population (electorate) think the word means.

                  Red Ed has single handedly frightend all the horses.

                  Why? I can only assume Len has told him his fortune.

                • David Lindsay

                  You are not “the electorate”. I doubt that you had a vote until hereditary peers were partially abolished.

                • Fergus Pickering

                  God God, but you are right about Socialism. It is only surpriisingn that a man of intelligence should be so wedded to the Labour Party who haven’t had a decent leader since Harold Wilson who was PM before most people were born.

                • David Lindsay

                  He didn’t stop being PM until 1976. That was only one year before I was born, and I suspect well after you were.

                • Fergus Pickering

                  Well, he effectively stopped being PM when he lost his mind, poor fellow. I wonder when that was.Most people are younger than you, old fruit.

                • ButcombeMan

                  You have it . Red Ed coming over all socialist is the very best thing that has happenned to the Tories.

                • David Lindsay


                • ButcombeMan

                  Onje of my friends who is at Brighton tells me some around Red Ed are already thinking he has gone too far. He has certainly put red water between him and the Tories.

                  A lot of people around Ed are now worried. One can see why. Ed has taken the party to a place not many people who actually turn out to vote, want to go.

                  By the way, If you can stand bloodsports, you might enjoy the interview of Stephen Twigg by Brillo, which just finished on Daily Politics. (1224hours)

  • Hello

    “Nearly everything the former spin doctor has said so far suggests he is quite contrite about his actions”

    Could you evaluate a passage from yesterday’s Mail serialisation that I just couldn’t quite get my head around? The Ed Miliband debacle with the phone call where Ed accuses Damian of briefing against him…then three years later, during Ed’s leadership campaign, a chap calls Damian (the nastiest of nasty spin doctors that you couldn’t trust as far as you could throw him) to admit to the whole thing, that it was in fact this Labour MP that did the dirty deed, briefing against the potential next leader of the Labour party, and he just thought Damian ought to know about that — Damian being the sort of chap that you want to leave that kind of information with.

    Damian then calls a mutual friend of his and Ed’s to get him to let Ed know about the conversation. Presumably Damian didn’t give the name away. Surely Damian is a little irate about the whole episode isn’t he? This is the chap that set Ed against him, Ed being the chap that eventually got him fired.

    I can’t for the life of me see what advantage someone would have in admitting to briefing against a candidate in the Labour leadership race, and I can’t for the life of me understand why Damian would protect the identity of that person unless he has suddenly turned into Mother Theresa — I’m not quite convinced that he’s made that much of a leap.

    It’s one thing to admit that you are a b*stard, it’s another thing to want to stop being one — particularly if you’re the sort of chap who does it to show just how far up the wall you can p*ss.

  • Dicky14

    For Campbell to be critical is shameless in the Hain style of totally disconnected with how people see them. McBride comes across as a competent spin doctor playing a contact sport – he wasn’t the architect of the economic drivel that Balls created with endogenous growth via immigration or Miliband did with his pathetic and zealous climate change adherence. I remember Copenhagen and ‘3 days to save the earth’ waffle. I’ll happily criticize McBride for working for the wrong team but he didn’t do policy – he did media, it’s a contact sport – they should grow up! ‘Oh noes, someone being horrible to me’ blah blah blah. A lot of the barking is that Labour minions thought they were Eliot Ness but McBride didn’t coronate Brown, the Labour Party did that all by themselves – no-one had the nuts to stand against him which shows more their character than McBride’s. Boy did a job, got sacked, wrote a book – the end. Fair play to him.

    • sarah

      What really annoys me is that he is the press officer for CAFOD who keep preaching to the rest of us about ethics.