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Davie Tait
11th April 2009, 20:29
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7995044.stm


One of Gordon Brown's senior officials has resigned after sending e-mails which reportedly discussed smearing senior Conservatives.

Damian McBride, the prime minister's former political press officer, had apologised after the messages found their way to a Westminster blogger.

Paul Staines, writer of the Guido Fawkes blog, described the messages sent by Mr McBride as "obscene".

A Number 10 spokesman said the messages were "juvenile and inappropriate".

The e-mails are said to have included unfounded allegations about Conservative leader David Cameron and shadow chancellor George Osborne.

A spokesman for Number 10 said nobody in Downing Street knew of the e-mails and that it was Mr Brown's view that there was "no place in politics for the dissemination or publication of material of this kind".

The Tories said it was absurd that advisers were "plotting smear campaigns rather than focusing on how to help people affected by the downturn".

In his resignation letter, Mr McBride said he was "sickened" that Mr Staines had put the e-mails in the public domain and that he regretted embarrassing the government.

GUIDO FAWKES' VIEW
Paul Staines
Paul Staines, author of the Guido Fawkes blog

Mission accomplished - McBride fired.

These are e-mails that orchestrate a campaign against Tory MPs and opponents of Downing Street.

This is not just a spat... this is evidence of a long-term smear operation run out of Downing Street.

Guido Fawkes' blog

"I have already apologised for the inappropriate and juvenile content of my e-mails, and the offence they have caused," he said.

"We all know that when a backroom adviser becomes the story, their position becomes untenable, so I have willingly offered my resignation."

The e-mails were originally sent to former government spin doctor Derek Draper, who runs a pro-Labour blog, before they came to the attention of Mr Staines.

Mr Draper branded the idea of an orchestrated Downing Street campaign as "ridiculous".

He said he had been sent the comments after canvassing Labour supporters about the prospect of setting up another blog to combat "right-wing tittle-tattle" posted on the internet.

However, former home secretary Charles Clarke had led calls for Mr McBride to be sacked and said his actions had brought "shame" on the Labour Party.

Despite the resignation, BBC political correspondent Ross Hawkins said Gordon Brown may not escape the political fall-out.

"For years Damian McBride has been one of the prime minister's closest advisers, dealing with the press at the Treasury when Mr Brown was chancellor and moving with him to Downing Street," he said.

"His special adviser status meant he was allowed to give partisan - and sometimes strident - political briefings to journalists."

DEREK DRAPER'S VIEW
Derek Draper
Derek Draper, editor of Labour List blogging site

It's a high price to pay isn't it for sending a silly e-mail to a mate, to lose your job.

In truth these were a bit juvenile and inappropriate and some were in bad taste though I have to admit some were also brilliant and rather funny.

The idea that this was some great smear campaign gives me and my internet work far too much credit and the idea that it was a big project orchestrated in Downing Street is ridiculous.

Labour List

Mr Staines told the BBC: "The e-mails are intended to be anonymous smears; they are obscene in cases, and would be impossible for a newspaper to publish. They're libellous and they're untrue.

"In the e-mails, Damian McBride admits to using 'poetic licence'. He's a civil servant, he's exempt from the restrictions on being impartial and political, he's not exempt from telling the truth."

Conservative MP Nadine Dorries, who was mentioned in one of the e-mails, said: "I want an apology from the prime minister.

"It's completely unacceptable that this kind of behaviour takes place using taxpayers' money."

Shadow home secretary Chris Grayling said: "This whole episode has been quite disgraceful.

"This resignation is a clear admission that Gordon Brown's team at Number 10 were involved in a deliberate attempt to spread unpleasant false rumours about opposition politicians.

"Gordon Brown needs to provide a clear explanation about what happened and who else was involved."

Cabinet Office minister Liam Byrne said he thought Mr McBride had "done the honourable thing."

But he stressed the emails had not been intended for publication.

"I think it is unfortunate that there are some people in the media who have decided to try and put these emails into the public domain, wave them in the public's face, when even their very author decided that actually there was no place in public life or for public consumption for these emails, the right place for them was the bin.

"We do not think that there is any place in politics for innuendo, rumour or gossip. It just brings public life down."

Mr McBride, a special adviser in Downing Street, was removed from his job dealing with the media on a day-to-day basis in September 2008.

He had stayed on in Number 10, and was given responsibility for strategy and planning

All I can say is this , what is going on in No10 Downing Street when they are thinking up idiotic stunts like this when we are in financial meltdown with the prospect of having 1m more people out of work by this time next year I think they need to get their priorities sorted !!!!

Davie Tait
12th April 2009, 14:50
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7995734.stm


Pressure is mounting on Gordon Brown to explain who was involved in drafting e-mails sent by a senior adviser which discussed smears against senior Tories.

Damian McBride quit after his obscene and unfounded claims about Conservative leader David Cameron and shadow chancellor George Osborne became known.

Opposition MPs are calling on the prime minister to personally apologise.

Cabinet Office minister Liam Byrne has said the prime minister knew nothing of the e-mails.

A Number 10 spokesman said no-one else in Downing Street knew about the "juvenile and inappropriate" messages, which came to light after they were picked up by a Westminster blog.

However, shadow home secretary Chris Grayling claimed the e-mails demonstrated a "structured plan" to publish "blatant lies" about opposition MPs.

Chris Grayling: "This was right at the very heart of our government"

"It's a sign of something absolutely rotten at the heart of Gordon Brown's Downing Street," he told BBC News.

"This is an exceptionally serious matter and he needs to explain immediately what happened.

"The real question now is was [Mr McBride] the only person involved in all of this."

Mr Byrne dismissed suggestions of an orchestrated smear campaign.

"This was one private e-mail exchange between a couple of friends who were knocking backwards and forwards ideas," he said.

"Mr McBride, having scribbled this stuff, decided that the right place for it was the waste basket," he added.

The e-mails were originally sent in January to former government spin doctor Derek Draper, who runs the LabourList blog and was proposing to set up a new gossip-led site.

However, they came to the attention of Paul Staines, author of the "anti-politics" Guido Fawkes blog, who revealed their contents.

We all know that when a backroom adviser becomes the story, their position becomes untenable
Damian McBride

Resignation statement in full

Mr Staines has refused to reveal how the messages found their way to him, despite complaints from Mr Draper that they were private.

In his e-mails, Mr McBride said he had used a bit of ''poetic licence'' to ''put the fear of God into Osborne''.

Mr McBride described the first of his ideas as a ''solid investigative story'', but the other three as ''mainly gossipy, and intended to destabilise the Tories".

He added: ''Let's think about how to sequence these in with others'' - a suggestion that a longer-term plan to place stories was being hatched.

Mr McBride had been removed from his job dealing with the media on a day-to-day basis in September 2008 but was given responsibility for strategy and planning until he resigned on Saturday.

In his resignation letter, he said he was "sickened" that Mr Staines had put the e-mails in the public domain and that he regretted embarrassing the government.

Cabinet Office Minister Liam Byrne said Damian McBride did the "honourable thing" by resigning

"We all know that when a backroom adviser becomes the story, their position becomes untenable, so I have willingly offered my resignation," he said.

BBC political correspondent Ben Wright said the controversy was uncomfortable for the prime minister because of his proximity to Mr McBride.

"Damian McBride was one of the prime minister's closest confidants and he has been for many years," he said.

"This man was important. He had real clout in Westminster, so for Gordon Brown to lose one of his most trusted lieutenants - and with a story like this - is incredibly damaging."

Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair's former spin doctor, wrote in his blog that he had been struck not just by the "unpleasantness" of the emails, but also by their "incompetence".

"McBride will be thinking that was his big mistake - writing it all down. His really big mistake was thinking it might be effective," Mr Campbell added.

Former transport minister and Glasgow South MP Tom Harris wrote online that standards had "fallen far, far below what is remotely acceptable, especially for someone working at the very heart of government".

"The people behind this sordid little mess owe everyone named in these e-mails a very public apology," he said.