Ever since the publication date of Damian McBride’s book was set for the week of the Labour autumn conference, it was clear that the party would find itself lugging a bit of the past around as it tries to talk about what it wants to do in the future. But perhaps it wasn’t clear quite what a festival of letting skeletons wander out of closets this week would be.
There isn’t one particularly horrifying skeleton, but the effect both of McBride’s book, serialised in the Mail, and the cache of emails released by Benjamin Wegg-Prosser, former Number 10 strategic communications director, is to trawl up a row that had lain quiet. Wegg-Prosser says he did it to remind the party of the dangers of factionalism, but his actions are also clearly a pre-emptive strike against the Brownite version of events that will appear in McBride’s book.
The anger and poison in these emails will remind voters of everything they hate about politics in general, but these revelations are also a terrible weakness for the Labour party as their conference season begins. How can those who were right in the thick of it who now lead the party show that things have changed? But the bigger question is what more will emerge from the McBride book, and whether there’s anything in it that could seriously undermine the standing of members of the shadow cabinet today.