Monday, 20 July 2009

Was Damian McBride right to speak out?

I've listened to the very long Radio 5 interview with Damian McBride and read the interview in today's Media Guardian. He has done a fairly professional job in getting across his point of view, and in killing a few of the more outrageous things that were said about him. And by feeding the media he should be allowed to get on with his new school job without hassle from journalists.

So, in that sense, I can understand his doing the interview. But it has also done a lot to revive memories of an unsavoury episode in recent government history, one that preceded the MPs expenses saga but probably contributed as much to the terrible poll results that Gordon has had since. So, the government could certainly have done without it.

As for the content of the interviews, I only knew McBride by reputation, so I have no idea whether or not he did much of the briefing that is attributed to him. What I do know is that his argument that he had to engage in some sort of briefing war with people he describes as Blairite 'ultras' like Charles Clarke, Alan Milburn or Stephen Byers suggests that he lacked a sense of proportion at best and that he made a serious error of judgment at worst. Special advisers who deal with the media should not indulge in serial briefing against senior figures in their own party, briefing which also seemed to go on when these people were ministers.

That this seems acceptable to McBride may go a long way towards explaining why Gordon Brown has had the difficulties he has had since becoming PM.

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