If Damian McBride’s Power Trip: A Decade of Policy, Plots and Spin has any value – a highly debatable question – it lies in its exposure of how politics was systematically debased during the years of the Blair-Brown control of the Labour Party.
Politics – a word hardly to be found in the book – was nothing to do with achieving social change by attacking inequalities of wealth and power. It was everything to do with media manipulation and undermining political opponents by leaks about their personal lives.
Allegations – founded or unfounded – of politicians’ drug use, extra-marital affairs, heavy drinking, tax-dodging, sexual harassment, and domestic abuse, plus any other gossip that conveniently came to hand, were all passed on to the media by McBride.
More often than not, McBride’s targets were Labour politicians rather than Tories. Getting on the wrong side of McBride or his boss, Gordon Brown, was sufficient reason to be targeted. Politics hardly came into it, if at all.
After one Labour MP had complained about McBride’s bullying, for example, the next issue of the News of the World ran an article about the MP’s supposed pestering of a young female civil servant who had worked in his private office.
McBride’s excuse: he felt slighted by the accusation of bullying.
No surprise, therefore, that McBride came to be nicknamed “McPoison” and “Mad Dog”. As one reviewer of his book puts it, on the rare occasions when McBride told the truth it was only so that he would be more credible when he lied the rest of the time.
The book constantly fluctuates between being the confessions of a repentant sinner and the unrepentant reminisces of Jack-the-Lad. However foul McBride’s behaviour, he can generally find some ‘justification’ for it.
Cherie Blair’s behaviour made her “fair game”. Politicians who abused their power in sexual relationships merited exposure (claims the chivalrous St. Damien of the Dog and Whistle). And Gordon Brown was such A Great Man that anyone who criticised him deserved to be knifed.
Indeed, McBride portrays himself as having been driven only by the noblest of motives: “devotion, loyalty, and some degree of love”, and a desire to ensure that Gordon Brown was “protected and defended at all times.”
But McBride is curiously evasive in dealing with the leaked e-mails that led to his downfall: proposals to set up a blog to systematically ‘leak’ rumours about the private lives of Tory politicians and their spouses. Even for his allies, this was one smear too far.
But for McBride they were just “some silly e-mails” – no advance on the expression which he used at the time to defend the scurrilous allegations in the e-mails: “poetic licence”.
In order to confess the error of his ways in having spread endless gossip and tittle-tattle in exchange for a large salary, McBride has written a book full of gossip and tittle-tattle in exchange for a large fee.
This necessarily calls into question the genuineness of his repentance.
So too do the facts that McBride’s book has been published by a well-known Tory (Iain Dale), extracts from it have been serialised in the Daily Mail, publication and serialisation were timed to coincide with Labour Party conference, and McBride conducted daily media interviews about his book from outside of the party conference
McBride describes himself as having previously behaved like a tosser, as having been a thoughtless bastard, and as having been a name and a face that was known and despised by Labour people he had never met.
The only mistake in McBride’s verdict on himself is the tense.