McBride back to attack a Labour leader? Old habits die hard

29th July, 2014 11:51 am

Stop the presses: the paperback edition of Damian McBride’s aptly named memoir Power Trip has been published. And if there’s one thing the Labour Party didn’t need nine months before an election, it was more McBride – and the accompanying extensive extract in the Daily Mail.


When the book was originally released, it was pushed as McBride trying to atone for his sins, without asking for forgiveness. However, it soon became clear that it was more a “mea culpa, mea culpa, mea minima culpa” than a cleansing confessional. If we can be grateful for anything, then, it is that for the new edition they seem to have done away with the tactic of presenting the former Labour spin doctor as a reformed figure.

The Mail piece today has been covered today in almost every other paper – and here on LabourList. Why? Because McBride is back to doing what he does best: causing problems for a Labour leader. Old habits die hard.

Labour’s policies are a “great, steaming pile of fudge”. The Party has “no clear idea who its target audience is”. Miliband’s leadership is “totally dysfunctional” and he’s managed to “blend the worst” qualities of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

And on and on.

Of course, the Mail have chosen the most damaging part of the new chapters to run. In other parts, McBride praises Miliband, says Labour can win next year and raises has some fairly legitimate concerns about the possibility of a future economic crash.

Yet it’s hard to feel for him. Whatever fair concerns he raises, he has not earned the right to be listened to. Not only have his publishers sold the rights to one of the most virulently anti-Labour papers, it’s impossible to get around the fact that the damaging pull-out quotes I use above are hardly out-of-context, and they’re certainly not out of character. The entire section is a damning attack on how poorly Labour are doing, and McBride always knows exactly who he’s trying to damage. As Stephen Bush put it this morning: “as ever with Mr McBride’s public interventions, one gets the unmistakable sense of him sitting in a darkened room somewhere, gently scratching names off an enemies’ list.”

It was only two weeks ago that McBride saw fit to slag off Harriet Harman (and let us all bask in the irony of him attacking someone else for lacking decency). Last week, he was settling old scores with Douglas Alexander (£). Let’s not pretend he’s trying to be helpful.

It is telling that “McPoison”, the nickname he earned while working as spinner for Gordon Brown, was not what Tories called him. It’s what Labour colleagues called him. This is a man who managed to play a major part in terminally destabilising two Labour prime ministers. One purposefully, and one through sheer incompetence.

From what I’ve seen of Damian McBride – through his book, his blogs, his interviews – I get the impression he was never very good at his job. Or, to be fair, he was only good at half of it. Need to lay waste to someone who stands in your way? Damian’s your man. Need to do something positive? Er, best find someone else.

Here is a man with no constructive faculty. He can spot a fault a mile off, and exploit it with terrifying precision. But he seems to have no idea what is helpful advice, and that’s a fairly big clunking flaw for someone who’s job was media relations. Just look at what he suggests Miliband and Balls do over the next year: they need to come up with policies that are both “populist” and “pass the FT test”. Not exactly cutting political insight.

Let’s not kid ourselves that McBride has something to offer. Please, stop the presses.

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  • Hamish Dewar

    Anyone remember the first editor of LabourList?

  • swatnan

    Good hatchett job on McBride; the man is a disgrace and has a book to flog.

  • ColinAdkins

    So why give him any ‘oxygen? Smother this disengenuous so and so (metaphorically speaking of course).

    • Conor Pope

      Whether we like it or not, he is in the news today. I thought it worth getting this opinion of him out there – especially as it seems to be the prevailing view among Labour members.

      • ColinAdkins

        What it also indicates to me is also the decline in collective principles in the Party where the voice of an invidual carries more weight with the media than members or affiliated organisations. Indeed old tankie that I am it was a sub-conscious objective of the liberal left in the Party to marginalise bodies such as trade unions in order to increase the clout of their own individual opinion. Some are now making a healthy living from it all.

  • MrSauce

    He who lives by the sword…

  • ToffeeCrisp

    I think that such a dedicated, skilled and loyal servant to the Labour party deserves far more respect from the contributors to Labourlist.
    Otherwise, the casual observer might consider those contributors to be no better than partisan mercenaries with no sense of loyalty or appreciation.

    • Conor Pope

      Genuinely not sure if this is a joke or not. At a loss to see how anyone could view McBride as “loyal” to the Labour Party.

      • ToffeeCrisp

        Partly a joke, partly not. Perhaps more of a barbed comment?
        Which begs the question. If McBride was not loyal to the Labour Party. Then who was he loyal to?

        • Conor Pope

          Gordon Brown.

  • Steve Stubbs

    Hmmmm… Obnoxous messenger. What about the message?

  • Paul Adams

    In the eternal dilemma of “what to make of Ed Miliband?” I would suggest applying the “who are his worst enemies” test.
    In the case of Miliband the list would include:-

    Damian McBride
    Charles Clarke
    Dan Hodges
    John Rentoul
    The idiot who claims to be the Grauniad’s political editor and is on the panel of that political show presented by Andrew Neil
    Andrew Neil
    Andrew Marr
    Somebody called Leo Mckinstry who writes for the Daily Express
    Rupert Murdoch
    Rupert Murdoch’s underlings at NI
    The Daily Mail
    The Energy ripoff merchants (sorry Companies).
    The NeoCons like Paddy Ashdown and Michael Gove who are always screaming for War
    The fanatical supporters of Israel for whom even the mildest criticism is tantamount to anti-semitism ( especially irritating when it comes from someone of a Jewish background who, goddammit, can’t convincingly be accused of anti-semitism.)

    All in all, he sounds like a pretty good bloke!

    • reformist lickspittle

      There really is no answer to that, is there?

      A decent candidate for LL post of the year 🙂

  • Barry_Edwards

    Damian who? Remind me who elected him and where?

    Until then his views have no more weight than anyone else who has paid their subscription.

  • robertcp

    This constant criticism of Miliband is starting to get on my nerves. Firstly, I prefer him to Blair and Brown, which is not difficult to be honest. Secondly, Labour is still in the lead in the opinion polls in the fifth year of a Parliament. Thirdly, he is following Atlee’s advice of leading Labour from the slightly left of centre. Fourthly, none of his critics seem to have anything constructive to suggest.

    • foto2021

      The most constructive suggestion of all is that Labour should find a better leader. It simply isn’t possible to say anything constructive about Ed Miliband.

      • Ultra_Fox

        The party’s leading in the polls, which wouldn’t be the case if David, with all the Blairite baggage he would have brought, had been elected leader.

        • foto2021

          Who was suggesting David? Definitely not me. Neither of the Milibands has sufficient appeal to the voters.

          Of course a problem here is that Labour will inevitably want a leader who appeals to Labour party members rather than a leader who will win an election by appealing to more voters.

          • robertcp

            I guess that you will be voting for another party. That is your right in a democracy!

          • foto2021

            I voted Labour in the past and was a member of the Labour Party for quite a few years. I campaigned for Labour and contributed to policy development. However, I will not be voting for Labour while the leader is a Miliband.

          • robertcp

            Labour had to choose in 2010 whether to retain your vote or mine. There was no way that I was going to vote for a repeat of 1997 to 2010!

        • robertcp

          I agree. The important point is that Miliband has got the politics right. All of the rest is just meaningless guff!

  • Ultra_Fox

    “This is a man who managed to play a major part in terminally destabilising two Labour prime ministers”.

    The author wildly exaggerates McBride’s impact. The two individuals in question did that mostly for themselves.

  • gunnerbear

    Hey, if the author is such a fan of AWS, why didn’t he stand aside for a woman to take place? – oops wrong thead.


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