UK Politics

Labour views on Damian McBride

The confessions of Gordon Brown's former spin doctor Damian McBride have sent shockwaves through Labour's annual conference. What do delegates think?

Ed Jacobs, Broxtowe

"I don't think that much of what he said was surprising. What I am surprised about - and I'm really sad as well - was for someone who's supposed to want a Labour government to have a book released this weekend, of all weekends, at the start of the conference is absolutely appalling.

"And it teaches us a huge lesson as a party that we have got to do all we can to avoid going back to those bad old days. And it's very easy to sit on a couch as Ed Miliband did yesterday, on the Andrew Marr programme, and say we are changing as a party but whether or not that's actually the case is a completely different matter.

"It's one thing to say, it's another thing to do it. There is part of me that feels we haven't yet got past those bad old days.

"There are people who are murmuring about Ed's leadership. These are people doing the kind of off-the-record briefing that we are supposed to be getting past. And that's just got to stop."

Melanie Semple, Bournemouth

"What else is going to come out of the woodwork? Haven't we had enough?

"Having said that, I'm all for openness and transparency. The more secrets that come out the better and we can clean up politics and hopefully it will get a better name because it's so important. Bring it out if you have to and let's deal with it.

"I think it changes the way people think about Gordon Brown. It has certainly made me rethink Gordon Brown. I think all his talk about his moral attitude... I actually bought into that. So in that sense, it's quite disappointing."

Archie Taylor, Southam and Kennilworth

"It's sad that he should choose to release the book now, at the start of conference.

"Sadly, within political parties there is always in-fighting. It's pretty squalid, politics, at times, but hopefully, with the Labour Party, there is a vision ahead.

"The timing is what you would expect from a spin doctor."

Simon Butler

"I haven't looked into it too much. Maybe I'm too scared about what I'm going to find out about the current leader.

"So for me, maybe I'm putting my head in the sand at the moment. I don't really like to read about all this stuff. I'm much more interested in what's going to come out of the speeches today, some of the policy detail which we're finally going to see. That stuff for me is more interesting and I'd rather focus on that."

Tim Young, Colchester

"It's all in the past isn't it? We have moved on. Ed Miliband has said that. It's happened. It wasn't our finest hour. Move on.

"Some of the things going on behind the scenes weren't anything to be proud of and what we have got to do is learn from that and make sure it doesn't happen again. Politics is a bit of a rowdy business but we have got to work together. When we do that we are at our best."

Gabi Kobsin, Finchley and Golders Green

"I think it's a good thing that Labour's moved on from that. These internal divisions hopefully aren't in the party any longer. But also having two groups holding each other to account creates policy.

"In some ways it's good to have a bit of a contest, but not too tribal, I think that was below the belt. Ed's a different type of politician to Blair."

Former Labour spin doctors

A number of Damian McBride's former colleagues in the Labour government spin operation were willing to share their thoughts on his revelations, on condition of anonymity, naturally.

One former special adviser to a senior Labour minister, who knew Mr McBride well, said he was "genuinely flabbergasted" by the extracts published in the Daily Mail.

"Of course I knew all this stuff went on, but to the degree that's been described. It is unbelievable and profoundly shocking.

"It was incredible that he was allowed to get away with it. This stuff about Gordon not knowing, I'm sorry, it was absolutely key to the relationship I had (with his minister) there was an understanding of what was acceptable and what wasn't acceptable. You couldn't have the relationship without that."

He added: "It was so destructive. It does underline the frankly pathetic gamesmanship that was going on between the Brownites and the Blairites.

"When I was doing that job I was doing it to preserve a Labour government and be loyal to the leadership, when in fact, people were playing out, in the most extreme ways, at the edges, in his world, this ridiculous gang warfare. How much did that stuff contribute to us not winning in 2010? I think quite a bit actually."

Another former Labour special adviser, who did not want to be named, said: "I had friends who were on the receiving end of his briefings and I for one certainly did not like his modus operandi one little bit.

"I find it quite unfathomable why Gordon didn't sack him. So many people went to Gordon and complained about him, with proof positive that they had been briefed against. Some of them had actually heard him briefing against them. And yet Gordon refused to get rid of him.

"For mature adults in positions of ultimate responsibility to behave in that way is speech-defying. I find it astounding that the behaviour of both camps flourished and was tolerated."

One former spin doctor was happy to speak on the record.

Matthew Doyle, who was Tony Blair's spokesman for many years both in and out of government, said: "I don't need to read a book to know that Damian McBride was a malign influence on the Labour government whilst he was working for Gordon Brown.

"I think what's important is that we move on from that. An individual went further than he should have done and it's important that we learn the lessons from that."

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