Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 July 2014

McBride: Eds in dark over briefings

Damian McBride said he was 'ashamed' of the way he treated Labour politicians he saw as rivals to Gordon Brown
Damian McBride said he did not believe Ed Miliband and Ed Balls were aware of the details of his briefing activities when he worked for Gordon Brown
Former Labour spin doctor Damian McBride gives a television interview on the seafront at Brighton

Labour's former spin doctor, Damian McBride, has said he did not believe that Ed Miliband and Ed Balls were aware of the details of his briefing activities when he was working for Gordon Brown.

In his first TV interview since the serialisation of his memoirs, Mr McBride said he was "ashamed" of the way he treated Labour politicians he saw as rivals to Mr Brown. But he insisted he did not break the law, and said he would be happy to speak to police if they decide to look into complaints from a Conservative MP. He also said he was ready to give up his pension if the civil service felt he should.

MP Alun Cairns has told Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan Howe that he is "deeply concerned that serious offences may have been committed" by the senior ex-Labour adviser.

Revelations made by Mr McBride in the Daily Mail serialisation of his account of his time in Whitehall suggest he accessed the then chancellor's emails without authorisation, he told the commissioner in a letter. That, Mr Cairns said, could be a breach of the Computer Misuse Act 1990, and he also called for a probe into whether Mr McBride leaked confidential documents in breach of the Official Secrets Act. Fellow MP Henry Smith has written to a Whitehall watchdog over what he claimed was evidence in the book of "serious and repeated breaches" of the civil service and special adviser codes of conduct.

The claims came as Mr McBride's insider account of his part in the toxic in-fighting between the camps of Mr Brown and Tony Blair continued to make waves at the Labour Party conference in Brighton. Extracts of the book Power Trip - published to coincide with Ed Miliband's keynote speech - detail Mr McBride's operations to ruin the careers of Mr Brown's rivals and boost his boss.

But speaking to BBC2's Newsnight, Mr McBride said he could have made more money by delaying publication until the weeks before the general election scheduled for May 2015. And he did not point the finger of blame at Labour's current leader Ed Miliband and shadow chancellor Ed Balls - both members of Mr Brown's inner circle at the time. Asked if he believed the pair knew what he was up to, Mr McBride said: "No, even less than Gordon would have done, because I didn't work with them on a day-to-day basis in the way I did with Gordon."

Mr McBride said Mr Brown did not inquire into his methods. "I don't think he knew what I was doing a lot of the time. I operated a lot of the time in the shadows...," he said. "Gordon knew he got from me media influence that was unparalleled and access to different bits of the media that other politicians couldn't reach. He never asked me quite how do you pull this off, because he just thought it was my personal relationship with journalists."

Mr McBride confirmed that he would earn more than £100,000 from the book deal and would do "very well" out of it even after his publisher and the taxman took their slices. But he added: "I was offered a much more lucrative contract to publish in April 2015. I was told whatever was offered, I could double it to publish in April 2015 to do maximum damage to the Labour Party. I chose not to do that because I wanted to publish a book at some stage and I thought better to do it now as long as possible before the general election."

Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman told ITV's Daybreak Mr McBride's behaviour was 'disgraceful'. Asked about claims that shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander had repeatedly briefed to the media that Mr Brown was refused a one-to-one meeting with US President Barack Obama, she replied: "What you are talking about there is an accusation by Damian McBride against somebody else and the point about that is that Damian McBride has admitted he's a liar so why should I believe that as much as any of the things he said about me?"

Mr McBride said Mr Miliband and Mr Balls "weren't really involved' in his activities but suggested people had not been asking enough questions. He told ITV's Daybreak: "Both they and Gordon Brown weren't really involved in my activities. If you like I'd compare it to when we had some of the rogue bankers, rogue traders in the 1980s in banks where, in some ways people weren't asking enough questions about how they were making their profits or that kind of thing and I think I would compare myself to that. It was only when you discovered the scale of the activities that people were a bit horrified about what they found and obviously that's what I've been prepared to admit in this book."

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