1. Brown’s Black Arts Strategy. His skill lies is attack, not persuasion. He bullied and plotted his way into No10. No one outside Fife has ever cast a vote for him: he has become PM by destroying potential rivals. This strategy is what led him to assemble perhaps the most lethal attack operation ever seen in Whitehall. But weirdly, he always restricted his attacks to his Cabinet colleagues (hence the affection for McBride in Whitehall). When the Brown attack machine turns to the Tories, things don’t go so well. It seems to be programmed for red-on-red attacks: the red-on-blue efforts seem to misfire (eg, Crewe).
His demotion to the backroom of No10 was never going to mean his demise. He is pretty irreplaceable: to Brown, at least. It’s hard to imagine a more energetic and committed praetorian. It’s not blind loyalty: he wouldn’t die for Brown, but he’d certainly kill for him – and Brown certainly wants these Bullingdon boys whacked (to borrow Godfather argot). But he's going after the Tories with too much energy: he's slipping up. As Corleone said, never hate your enemies. It clouds your judgment.“
2. McBride is too effective for Brown to axe. I hold no brief for McBride, having had my share of colourful emails (which, to be fair to him, made for great copy) but to put all this in context we must remember: he is very good at his job. Those Whitehall advisers are right to loathe (and fear) him so much: he has a hit rate unsurpassed by any other special adviser. His occasional but spectacular slips mask what has been, broadly, a very successful career not just in character assassination but in building a working relationship with newspapers and journalists not normally supportive of Brown.