Council critic has eyes on journalism

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The virulent attack on the Labour Party in this week's Spectator magazine by Leo McKinstry, a party researcher until Monday, arose from a combination of enterprise by the paper's editor and the journalistic ambitions of its author.

But Mr McKinstry, a former Labour councillor in Islington, north London, who spoke yesterday about his decision to publish and be damned by his former colleagues, had also become progressively disillusioned with the party's culture in local government and by extension in Westminster.

Mr McKinstry, who has now left the party, said that he had "great admiration for Tony Blair and Gordon Brown" and added: "I still think that when this century is looked back on from the next, Tony Blair may turn out to have become one of the great politicians of the era."

Mr McKinstry's vitriolic attack on what he believes is the "mean-minded cocktail of political correctness, bureaucracy, intervention and abuse of public money" within the party was followed by his departure from the job of assistant to Douglas Henderson,Labour spokesman on public services. Mr McKinstry said he had "great admiration" for Mr Henderson. "I hope he doesn't get yelled at because of me when he's got to stand up in the House."

Dominic Lawson, editor of the Spectator, said yesterday Mr McKinstry, 32, had written to say "that he was fed up and disillusioned and wanted to go into journalism" and that his record in local government had given him a field of expertise as a correspondent. Mr Lawson added that he had suggested Mr McKinstry write a piece immediately - which he delivered in time for this week's edition.

Labour reacted more in sorrow than in anger, with a senior source saying that both Mr Henderson, and the party's employment spokeswoman, Harriet Harman, for whom Mr McKinstry had worked previously, were sad to see him go.

Mr Henderson said: "I don't think his comments on Islington refer to something which is typical in the country as a whole."