In her Guardian column, Jackie Ashley writes:
I would hazard a guess that this might be the same meeting that Kevin Maguire described as follows in the New Statesman back in December:
“[McBride] was regarded as the heart of a Brownite shadow operation, based around a Wednesday afternoon meeting of just five or six people, which spent far too much energy plotting against ministers.”
We know that two people who attended this meeting definitely knew about the plans for Red Rag and another attendee is mentioned in the emails discussing it. The other people reportedly present at this meeting might clarify matters if they made clear that McBride never mentioned Red Rag or his ideas for it at this meeting. (I presume that because this meeting was political not governmental there are no minutes that could be FOIed).
“The great guessing game over the date of the election has overlooked a regular gathering in No 10 on Wednesday afternoons. Chaired by Gordon Brown’s mini-me, Ed Balls, the eclectic collective includes Miss Moneypenny Sue Nye, the spinner Damian McBride, the union money man Charlie Whelan, Colin Byrne (corporate link), the fixer Tom Watson and Labour’s generalissimo Ray Collins, plus an assortment of other influential figures.”
The rest of Ashley’s column shows just how much loathing there is for McBride on the Labour side. It is also evidence that even those like Ashley who ideologically believed in Brown recognise that he can’t change now, that he can’t give up the ‘spinning and dealing’.
Update: An email arrives to say the New Statesman corrected to say that it was Liam Byrne not Colin Byrne who attended this meeting.