Gutter politics in London – shock! Gordon Brown had no choice but to sack his Downing Street press adviser Damian McBride after the leaking of a series of e-mails he sent to fellow Labour adviser Derek Draper detailing a potential smears campaign against top British Tories. If he hadn’t done so, the clamour would have only got louder.
But Draper isn’t helping Downing Street by arguing in media interviews that McBride shouldn’t have had to go, and his claim that this was just a matter of e-mails between some mates is absurd. They might have decided not to use the material they were concocting but the e-mails leaked to blogger Guido Fawkes show that McBride and Draper were getting down to tactical details on how to make the online smears campaign really work.
In the e-mail exchanges about what stories they could spread, initially by using Labour blogs they run, the two discuss how the stories should be deployed in sequence to maximise their impact, and Draper says he will think about the “timing and technology” in order to boost the credibility of the smears.
At no point in their exchanges do they voice doubt about the morality of what they are doing or embarrassment about making up vile allegations or adding lies to half-truths.
Conservative blogger Iain Dale – who himself has been a target of McBride and Draper – compares what the two were doing to Nixon. At first, I thought this was stretch. But thinking about the pattern of tactics employed in recent months against opponents by some at the heart of government, there seems some substance to Dale’s comparison. Like Nixon, there is total, unabashed ruthlessness when dealing with critics and a willingness to use, for example, the police on opponents – recall, for example, the calling in of the anti-terrorist squad into Parliament to root out who was leaking to the Tories embarrassing details about immigration cock-ups.
But the Web is the Wild West and e-mails and blogs can be turned around on you.