Peter Hoskin

Spinning from beyond Downing Street

Spinning from beyond Downing Street
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Guess which disgraced former spin-chief is back?  Yep.  Damian McBride is interviewed in this morning's Guardian and, conveniently enough, gives his take on the Andy Coulson situation.  As you'd expect, his attempts to paint himself as an angel to Coulson's devil are a hoot:

"'The reason that matters is that if you can't tell the truth to David Cameron, you can't be expected to tell the truth to the press, and what I know from doing that job is the press must trust you 100% to tell them the truth.'

That will prompt hollow laughter from some lobby correspondents, who insist McBride is as ruthless and unscrupulous as his 'McPoison' nickname suggests. But the disgraced spin doctor insists he was always honest. 'Whatever the vitriol that got thrown at me after I resigned, no one could say about me that I ever misled them or lied to them - that is the cardinal sin, and once you've lost that trust, you can no longer do the job.'" And he develops the theme by diminishing Smeargate - characterising it as "juvenile," and referring to some of the criticism aimed at him as "snobbery" - and then distancing it all from Brown:

"'I lost my dad three years ago. He was from a religious Scottish upbringing, very stern, and he would have hated reading those emails. I remember thinking: 'Thank God my dad didn't have to see this', but the way Gordon reacted to me that day, it was as bad as telling my dad'...

...Some MPs have claimed that he is still in touch with Brown. 'He rang me just after I resigned to ask me a set of questions about the emails - who knew about them and so on - then asked whether my mum was OK, and that was it. That was my last contact with him.' There has been no dialogue since, McBride insists, although he has exchanged 'personal' messages with his mentor, the schools secretary Ed Balls, who spotted McBride when he was a junior Treasury civil servant. 'I texted him on the day [Balls's football club] Norwich went down, he texted me on my birthday.' He says he read 'that Gordon and I had been texting each other to agree lines before his last interview on the [Andrew] Marr programme. It was total garbage but ... [the papers] just write it as a fact - and yet I'm the person who supposedly sat around making up stories.'" Assuming McBride is still loyal to the Brownite cause - and there's no reason to think he isn't - then you've got to wonder at the timing of this interview.  Sure, you can hazard a guess at the thinking behind it: try to rehabilitate McBride now, in the hope that will somehow worsen the case against Coulson.  But it could well have an countervailing effect: dragging McBride and Smeargate back into the news, and reminding people about how nasty things got under Brown.  In the end, you feel the Tories may actually welcome this intervention.

P.S. The interview ends on a juicy note:

"Meanwhile, McBride has some unfinished business with 'that bloke Staines'. 'He sent me a text on the day I resigned saying: "You started it, I finished it"', he reveals. McBride, however, may not be finished yet."

I, for one, am looking forward to Guido's take.