Peter Hoskin

Smeargate II: the dots get joined

Smeargate II: the dots get joined
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Seems like Guido had his crosshairs trained on some other Labour insiders.  Tomorrow's Sunday Times and News of the World are both running stories which implicate other members of Brown's coterie in the plot to smear top Tories.

According to the NotW report, a new email reveals that Ray Collins - the general secretary of the Labour party - chaired a meeting about the Red Rag website in Charlie Whelan's office.  Whelan, Damian McBride, Derek Draper, Andrew Dodgshon and, ahem, the Mirror's Kevin Maguire also attended.  Sounds like quite a crowd.  

While the Sunday Times targets the Schools Secretary, no less:

"ED BALLS, the schools secretary, used Damian McBride, the disgraced spin doctor, to smear ministerial rivals and advance his own ambitions, a Downing Street whistleblower has claimed.

In an explosive new twist to the e-mail affair, a No 10 insider has revealed that Balls was the mastermind behind a 'dark arts' operation by McBride to undermine colleagues.

He claims the education secretary is running a destabilising “shadow operation” inside Downing Street to clear his path for the party leadership if Labour loses the next election.

The insider said: "There is now an operation within an operation at No 10 and it answers to Ed Balls.'"

What both stories do is undermine Downing Street's claim to plausible deniability.  It's becoming clearer that Smeargate reaches right into the upper echelons of the Labour party, and you've got to wonder whether more resignations are in the pipeline.  As for Guido, he's put up an intriguing post which simply reads: "More revelations on this blog tomorrow."  Westminster waits, while Downing Street trembles.  This isn't over.

P.S. As expected, this isn't doing Labour much good in the opinion polls.  A couple of new polls in tomorrow's papers give hefty leads to the Tories.  Details, and Anthony Wells' analysis, here.