Matthew Dancona

McBride and the omertà of Team Brown

McBride and the omertà of Team Brown
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The Guardian’s interview with Damian McBride illustrates why "McPoison" was much more than an assassin for hire: he was a very clever man indeed, a Cambridge graduate as much as a lager-swilling lad (and since when were the two mutually exclusive?). Whether through calculation, instinct, sincerity or a blend of the three, this really is a flawless performance.

It is, for a start, the opposite of Lee Harvey Oswald shouting "I’m a patsy". McBride declares himself unequivocally to be the “lone gunman”, dismissing the notion that the smear e-mails he sent to Derek Draper were part of a Number Ten conspiracy or even in tune with the prevailing culture of the Brownite inner circle. When he re-read the emails, reproduced by Guido Fawkes, his first reaction was not (he claims) "I am busted" but "Bloody hell, what was I thinking?"

He does invoke the Brownite way of doing things, but only to mimic Gordon’s high-minded invocation of his father’s influence upon the formation of the Brown "moral compass". McBride says of his own late father: "He was from a religious Scottish upbringing, very stern, and he would have hated reading those emails." And then – the piece de resistance – he describes the silent, furious incomprehension with which the Prime Minister greeted the news of the email leak and the smears themselves. “The way Gordon reacted to me that day, it was as bad as telling my dad…I think he was just so angry and just so let down he could barely even speak to me."

In that narrative image – specific, tense, emotionally fraught – McBride delivers precisely what his former master needs from him. First hand, on-the-record, penitent testimony that Gordon was – as Billy Connolly might say – shocked and stunned, rather than the Svengali behind the dirty tricks department. But what this really reminds me of is the Mafia. Having been "pinched", McBride hasn’t ratted on his friends, or revealed that he was a caporegime in an elaborate Corleone-style syndicate – or even acknowledged the existence of that syndicate.

This is robust loyalty of the most resilient sort. Whatever you think of McBride, you have to salute his tradecraft. He’ll be back.