Tony Blair’s former communications director Alastair Campbell has criticised Gordon Brown’s press aide Damien McBride for smearing colleagues.
“This sort of thing is unacceptable in politics,” he said. “The idea that unelected spin doctors can go around spreading innuendo about ministers and colleagues and ruining their careers gives the business of politics a bad name.”
Mr Campbell was incensed that McBride admitted that cabals of advisers acted like enemy counter intelligence agents against their own side, causing friction between Blair and Brown.
“Nobody should have been encouraging factionalism in Labour,” he said. “For someone to be so close to a cabinet minister that he took his side against another and worked to oust him from office and started a whispering campaign through the media is not just betrayal, it is an insult to the British people and to democracy itself.”
He said it was unthinkable that anything of that sort could have happened in Tony Blair’s office. “We ran it with respect to all colleagues, we never blackened anybody’s name and never hung anyone out to dry, not even David Kelly. There was no leaking of sensitive government material, not even the date of the General Election. I’ve no idea where my good friend Trevor Kavanagh got that from to put in the Sun. There is no way anybody in Tony’s office was currying favour with the Murdoch papers so they could end up with a job there after being in government. As I did.
Mr Campbell said there would be a danger that an out-of-control press adviser could end up more powerful than elected ministers and, in extreme circumstances, produce misleading reports to be presented to the United Nations, re-writing documents for the Joint Intelligence Committee and sexing up documents about enemy military capability.
“That sort of thing could get young British service personnel engaged in an illegal war in some far-flung place where they could lose their lives. Untold thousands of locals could die in such circumstances and some might even be tortured by the British or beaten to death in custody. Anyone who did that should be put on trial for war crimes. It’s time to rid our system of moral crooks and poisonous liars who abuse power and couldn’t care less about the people.”
Mr Campbell’s new book Living with Self-Delusion is published by Hodder and Stoughton.