In an explosive new memoir serialised by the Daily Mail, Gordon Brown's former spin doctor Damian McBride reveals how he routinely tried to discredit the ex-PM's rivals through smear campaigns and media manipulation. Chris Boffey, a onetime special adviser to the Labour government, gives us the inside track on 'McNasty', his deal with the Mail, and a book that arrives at the worst possible time for the Labour party.
Alastair Campbell was at home on his sick bed yesterday recovering from dysentery after being released from a couple of days in hospital.
After the revelations by Damian McBride, Gordon Brown’s former spin doctor, Campbell felt a little bit sicker. Campbell recognises that he has no right to criticise anyone for writing a political memoir, after all he has pocketed millions from the publication of the diaries he scrupulously wrote every night when working in Tony Blair's Downing Street.
And it wasn’t news to him that McBride, known to political journalists as McNasty or McPoison, had been briefing as much against Brown’s Labour colleagues as the Conservative opposition.
What has really irritated Campbell is where McBride has chosen to have his explosive new book serialised. He cannot understand how any Labour Party member can sell out to the Daily Mail and to do it just before the party conference to cause maximum damage to the party and the two Eds, Miliband and Balls, who were colleagues of McBride’s at the treasury.
However, the reasoning is quite simple. McNasty has a living to make, a book to promote and the Mail pay substantially more than 30 pieces of silver. Campbell turned down a million pounds from Rupert Murdoch’s News International for his diaries as a matter of principal.
There is no way that McBride will be getting anywhere near that sum. Negotiations would have been going on for some time between his publisher Iain Dale of Biteback Publishing and the Mail and its editor Paul Dacre would have been involved. McBride would have been no reluctant virgin in this enterprise but he would have been pressed to add more and more juicy revelations about personalities and rivalries in the Labour Party, aided and abetted by Dale who is a very able right wing political figure.
So how much would McBride have trousered for his memoirs? Industry insiders point to a deal close to £100,000 and that would have been part of the overall contract for the book. For a political memoir of someone who was not in the Cabinet or even an MP it is a great deal but at what cost to McBride’s standing.
Since his demise as Downing Street spin doctor in 2009 when he was caught red-handed fabricating rumours about the personal lives of Conservative politicians, McBride has worked a business liaison officer at his former school, Finchley Catholic High School, in north London before quitting in 2011 become head of communications at Cafod, the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development.
What his bosses think of the revelations about his lying and cheating at the heart of government remains to be seen. Maybe they have accepted his confession.
So what has McBride revealed in the first tranche of his book. So far how he:
* Held a “black book” of stories about Lord Reid, the former Home Secretary who resigned from the cabinet to avoid damaging newspaper allegations
* Orchestrated a “briefing war” between Charles Clarke and one of Mr Blair’s advisers, leading to the ex-Home Secretary’s sacking
* Leaked a damaging story to the News of the World about then Health Minister Ivan Lewis involving a female civil servant in his private office
* Accused Douglas Alexander, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, of being “cold-blooded” when he insisted that his sister and fellow Scottish Labour politician, Wendy Alexander, would have to resign over a donation.
If the Daily Mail maintains its normal professionalism there will be an even bigger story on Saturday morning, the biggest print sale of the week. What is interesting is that Mail Online have the story low down on their news site, a possible indication of the general public’s view of political backbiting.
As a former special adviser to the Labour government more than 10 years ago I have been thinking of who were the malign forces in my time and only one name crops up; Charlie Whelan, and funnily enough he worked for Gordon Brown. Coincidence?
Chris Boffey is a former news editor of the Observer, Sunday Telegraph and the Mirror and onetime special adviser to the Labour government