16 April 2009

It's about Brown, but it's mostly about New Labour

I have read the McBride/Draper story from afar, without contact with the normal people that I discuss such issues with, because I am away on hols. That has meant that I have been able to take a view based solely on what I have read and seen.

Of course this issue asks huge questions about Gordon Brown and the operation he has built around him at Downing Street. There are rumours and counter rumours that one of his most trusted elected allies, Tom Watson is at the heart of this scandal (and of course his lawyers have put out a statement denying his involvement). Irrespective of this, Gordon Brown must get rid of him; he has now become associated with the disgraceful conduct of Brown's premiership and until Brown makes a clean break with all of his cabal, the Office of the Prime Minister will continue to be tainted - and rightly so. In fact, I suspect and hope that Brown will now be haunted by this until the moment he leaves office (the sooner the better) and beyond.

There is loads about the "smears" that disturb me. To falsely paint pictures about people elected to public office is corrupt, there is no other word to describe it. Even worse is to falsely paint pictures about the spouses of those elected to public office, that is both cowardly and beneath any person with an ounce of decency. I suspect the George Osbourne would agree with me.

One of the reactions to Guido's many posts and his role in exposing McBride was to dismiss the expose as simply from a Conservative supporting blog. That Guido is a Conservative supporter is true, but the reason his blog is the first that I look at every evening is because his raison d'etre is to expose the worst aspects of our political system and he has attacked politicians of every background in that respect - Guido is interested in improving the way politics is transacted across the board, his record is evidence of that, that impartiality is something that Fleet Street lacks. Indeed, as others have started to point out, he has done the job that Fleet Street has failed to do, because they were all too willing to lap up the political tittle-tattle that they were fed rather than challenge and investigate.

Of course, fear of having access to the lobby withdrawn was another reason they failed to challenge, the fact that they succumbed to these threats rather than challenge says it all. Let's not forget that it was Blair who started the spin and, although his office may not have been guilty of anything quite this shocking, they certainly were not averse to their own whispering campaigns and the lobby threat existed long before Brown became PM. This is a New Labour problem, not just a Gordon Brown problem.

Today we hear that Sir Gus O'Donnell, the head of the Civil Service has decided that there are no grounds to investigate the scandal, largely because he has chosen to believe Tom Watson. It is a shame, the public need to know beyond doubt exactly who was involved in the smears and the only way to achieve that is to investigate and examine computers. That fact that we read in the Mirror that Derek Draper took his desktop PC for a ride today is surely more evidence.

We also hear today that Gordon Brown has apologised. He now he needs to write to everyone who was smeared and apologise properly. But we should not forget that the apology came because it was forced out of him, not because he wanted to make it. We'll know what he truly thinks when and if he gets rid of Tom Watson, because that is the only thing that could signal a complete change in the way Number Ten operates.

Edit/Update: I have just been reading Brown's apology again. It is an amazing contradiction. Brown's quote is: "I take full responsibility for what happened. That's why the person who was responsible went immediately."

If Gordon believes the person responsible should be out of office (which his statement suggests is the case) and that he takes full responsibility (which his statement is unambiguous about), surely the outcome is that he resigns?

Clear as mud? Can we have a Plain English Campaign interpretation?



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