Fraser Nelson

Has the damage limitation worked?

Has the damage limitation worked?
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So, has the spin operation worked? McBride's quick depature had three objectives.

1. Close down the story. This seems to have worked: today's news doesn't have many more developments. If tomorrow's papers have nothing new, then Damiangate may not last until Wednesday. This would be, in the circumstances, the best possible outcome for Brown as there is a far more dangerous aspect to this story as yet unwritten: how the tactics exposed by McBride's emails (ie, character assassination) were the weapon used by Team Brown to take out his potential rivals for No.10. This time, the Tories were the target - but similar tactics were used to destabilise a long line of former (and some serving) Cabinet members.

2. Position McBride for quick return. Crucially, McBride is only down for a minor offence: sending "juvenile" emails. Which (as Draper keeps telling us) he did in an hour. And McBride himself has said he's gone simply to honour an old spin doctor code: when you become the story, you have to go. Sounds almost noble of him. Mark my words: McBride is the best spinner Brown has. He can be courteous, informative and immensely useful to the journalists he regards as strategically important. His skill in bridge-building with potentially hostile papers is too valuable to lose during an election campaign. He'll be back.

3. Protect others potentially involved. Liam Byrne has been carefully defining the question for us today: who knew about the emails? The real question is who knew about the concept of a Red Rag attack site. Who approved it? Is No10 really so dysfunctional that the PM's chief of strategy and communications can be allowed to freelance in this manner? More people will have known about all this. It's called Black Ops, it has to be deniable - but plenty people will have known something was up. McBride's quick departure is designed to stop people asking who these people were.

We'll have a clearer idea tomorrow if this Bob Quick approach to crisis management has been successful. But under the circumstances, it's looking good so far.

Update: I evidently wrote that all wrong, as you guys seem to have taken it as my proclaiming the story to be dead. I was simply trying to lay out the objectives of McBride's quick resignation, and setting a few yardsticks to judge his success by.

This is the danger of blogging: sarcasm can backfire. The Spectator has documented McBride's tactics several times since Brown came to power and I wrote almost three years about Brown’s government-by-cabal approach.

To answer some specifics... ChrisD/Nick, I do think McBride will be back, in a Labour-related organisation if not Labour itself. We'll see. Alex, it is indeed up to journalists like myself. AndyLeeds, McBride's skill was intimidating Labour MPs not Tories - he got Brown to No10 and kept him there last summer smoking out rebels like McDonagh/Cairns etc.

Written byFraser Nelson

Fraser Nelson is the editor of The Spectator. He is also a columnist with The Daily Telegraph, a member of the advisory board of the Centre for Social Justice and the Centre for Policy Studies.

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