14 Apr 2009

Damian McBride and me

For those of us who intersect with the Downing Street Press Office from beyond the confines of the Westminster lobby, the revelations regarding Damian McBride came as little surprise.

Uncouth would be a kind description of the man, charmless would perhaps be more accurate. After all, he was seemingly known as Mad Dog to his friends, and McPoison to his enemies.

My own intersections with McBride, in the flesh, by text and by email, were mostly of a one way nature. He rarely replied.

In our limited correspondence he seemed to have no interest in promoting his “master’s” interest on our “outlet”, nor, so far as I am aware, on anyone else’s. McBride was one of those people you wondered about…

It was interesting to note that McBride made it to the higher reaches of the Labour party and at the right hand side of the prime minister. It was an ascent I was never able to resolve, and still cannot.

McBride’s unmasking speaks ill of the whole Westminster lobby correspondent system – a cosy club which both the Independent and the Guardian tried unsuccessfully to operate outside of.

It leads to the sustaining of special advisers, and it serves political hacks in government and beyond more generously than they would be served were there no such secret society meeting on “lobby terms” at regular intervals – about which readers, viewers and listeners are never told.

This is not to speak ill of my own colleagues or the many friends I have within the system… they are prisoners of it. It is in the prime minister’s hands to end it.

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8 reader comments

  1. Carl says:

    You have to admit that Channel 4 news have helped McBrides cause somewhat by allowing his stooge in the form of Derek Draper on the programme recently. Maybe these type of events would not come about in the first place if C4 News only allowed serious commentators on the programme.

  2. Simon Gardner says:

    Well the blogs clearly are successfully operating outside the Lobby system.

    Having followed this over the weekend I still can’t see quite what the excitement has been but note all the hyperbole about this all being some kind of a “first”.

    Wasn’t that first the breaking of the Monica Lewinsky business by Drudge something like ten years ago?

  3. Oscar says:

    Is it not absolutely and fundamentally wrong that a partisan advisor be paid from the public purse? This is, effectively, another expenses fiddle. McBride will, I assume, enjoy a public sector pension too.

    It is inconceivable that Brown did not know anything, but he follows the line that, if it can’t be proved, then no worries and no acceptance of responsibility is needed. That shows his own character very clearly.

    Your friend, Lord Mandelson, has been rather quiet on this. Presumably because his mate Draper is involved. That suggests how bad it is. I wonder what we don’t know yet.

    Can nobody, for example you, put it to these political types, and I include all parties, that people now have the lowest opinion of them, probably ever? The more they use parlaimentary inquiries and committees, the more pronounced will be the suspicion that the new rules for anything will be just as bad.

  4. Richard says:

    While agreeing with everything that is said about McBride’s evil little email, there is another thing that concerns me which doesn’t seem to be getting any coverage – how did Guido Fawkes get a copy of the email?

    It seems to me there are three alternatives:

    1 McBride or Draper sent him a copy, which seems unlikely

    2 There’s a mole in No10 with access to McBride’s computer

    3 Someone hacked into McBride’s or Draper’s computer, which I believe is still illegal.

    If the latter is the case, it’s a bit worrying that the computers of Downing Street officials are so easily accessible and would presumably rule out the need for terrorists to photograph documents put on show by hapless policemen as they arrive for meetings.

  5. Mark says:

    …as opposed to Channel 4 Pal, Draper..

  6. Philip says:

    I have just watched your interview with E Milliband regarding the Mcbride affair.
    I am curious that you have not asked the obvious question “Where has McBride gone?” Milliband said several times that he had gone but is it to some other fiefdom within the organisation?.I only ask inasmuch as he has clearly driven a coach and horses through the rules and should have been sacked rather than allowed to resign with perks funded by the taxpayer.Call me old fashioned but a resignation in this instance sounds more like a reward than a penalty

  7. Brian Hazeldine says:

    I’m bored rigid with the lazy journalism in the UK invariably following the agenda of the right wing to focus on easy targets [Labour politicians] and simplified issues, rather than real investigative journalism to [e.g.] expose the cosy cliques that have hiked directors’ pay out of all proportion to their worth. This country is getting more unequal, but that suits the media power players who are at the top of the pile, so it’s not news. How about a campaign to re-define tax avoidance as treason?

  8. mark says:

    This is about your Damian Green interview 16th April. You suggested Damian Green had been ‘grooming’ civil servants to give him information.

    In 15 years of watching C4 news I have never seen such an appalling interview. Who briefed you? Damian McBride? Alaistar Campbell? Jacqui Smith? The first MP to be arrested for doing his job and cleared by the CPS and you were complete rubbish in your interview…unless of course the Home Secretary (not giving interviews of course) is recommending you for an honour?

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