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Spin doctor reveals smear campaigns
A former spin doctor to Gordon Brown has revealed how he launched smear campaigns against cabinet ministers during his boss's leadership bid.
Special adviser secretary Damian McBride confesses to leaking stories to the press about former home secretaries John Reid and Charles Clarke at a time when he was determined to ensure Mr Brown succeeded Tony Blair as Prime Minister.
In his book Power Trip, serialised in the Daily Mail, he reveals details of the infighting and media manipulation in the Labour party in the run-up to Mr Blair stepping down in 2007. It comes as The Guardian published emails showing how Mr Blair's aides sought to counter what they viewed as Mr Brown's coup to secure power at Number 10.
Mr McBride said he acted "out of loyalty and devotion" for Mr Brown, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, who he said was unaware of his attempts to discredit rivals.
He wrote: "Labour, Conservative or Liberal Democrat; Ministers, MPs or advisers; if they'd ever shared their secrets with colleagues in Westminster, the chances were that I ended up being told about them, too. Drug use; spousal abuse; secret alcoholism; extra-marital affairs. I estimate I did nothing with 95% of the stories I was told. But, yes, some of them ended up on the front pages of Sunday newspapers."
He said his motivation was to protect Mr Brown. "I offered him the best press he could hope for, unrivalled intelligence about what was going on in the media and access to parts of the Press that no other Labour politician could reach," he said. "And my attack operations against his Labour rivals and Tory enemies were usually both effective and feared, with me willingly taking all the potential risk and blame."
The publication of extracts from his book comes as emails emerged detailing how Mr Blair's core team tried to avoid declaring when he would step down as PM, 15 months after he had been voted to serve a third term in power, to make way for Mr Brown's apparent succession. The messages cover August 21, 2006 to September 8, 2006, and show how figures from Number 10 and Labour attempt to deal with increasing pressure for clarity on Mr Blair's future.
Ben Wegg-Prosser, former director of strategic communications in Number 10, is the source of the messages, which have been published by the Guardian. The content includes discussions on which MPs could support Mr Blair's cause, statements drafted for the prime minister, briefings to the media and the apparent frustrations of Mr Blair. There is also talk of finding candidates for a leadership contest with Mr Brown, including the possibility of persuading David Miliband to stand.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said the revelations showed that Labour was riven by factionalism. The Liberal Democrat leader told LBC 97.3: "My head is spinning. It's like back to the bad old days, isn't it? One newspaper got a bunch of emails and accusations and plots from one side of that feud, then another newspaper has got front-page revelations about emails and allegations from the other side of the feud.
"It shows how riven Labour was by personality politics, by this factionalism. I think the challenge for Ed Miliband, strangely enough, is that he hasn't really ever had to address that, but I think it's brewing there."