Martin Bright

It Doesn’t Get Any Worse

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The revelations over the weekend about Damian McBride's pitiful smear campaign have probably delivered the fatal blow to Labour's chances of winning the next election. The only possible excuse for writing such filth would be that it served the interests of the battle against the Tories. It has had the opposite effect. Most decent people would think twice about voting for a government that permitted such a culture to exist in Downing Street.

The poison expressed in McBride's infantile stratagem has fed back into the bloodstream of the party  he was supposed to be serving (let's not pretend for a moment that he was acting as a civil servant in this.

But the real question is not why McBride did it, but why Gordon Brown allowed this individual to operate for so long at the heart of government. The episode raises serious questions about the Prime Minister's judgement, especially as he had the chance to get rid of him quietly last year. Why did he choose to keep such a dangerous man so close?

One former adviser to Labour governments now in the Lords once told me of his surprise that Brown was prepared to surround himself with men who were so evidently "not good citizens". A Charitable observer would put this down to excess loyalty. But this is not an adequate explanation.

It does not explain his relationship with Charlie Whelan, for example. Whelan is still treated as a confidant by Brown even though he has the potential to be even more dangerous for him than McBride. I'm told Downing Street officials are amazed that the Prime Minister finds time to see his old spinner in Number 10. It would make an interesting freedom of information request to see how many times Brown has met Whelan over the past year.

But then again what would it prove? It would only reinforce that terrible feeling in those of us who still want the Labour Party to win the next election. It's a cold sensation that creeps up the spine and chills the heart with the real possibility that finally the game is up.