Police should investigate Damian McBride over leaks, say critics

  • @NigelpMorris

The police were urged on Sunday night to investigate claims that Damian McBride, Gordon Brown’s disgraced spin-doctor, could have broken the law by leaking confidential government information.

Labour chiefs, desperate to prevent the fall-out from Mr McBride’s memoirs tarnishing their annual conference, launched a concerted attempt to distance themselves from his activities.

Ed Miliband disclosed that he had asked Mr Brown to sack his spokesman before he was forced to resign in 2009 following the disclosure that he was plotting a dirty tricks campaign against prominent Conservatives.

However, a Blairite backlash was growing on Sunday against the methods of Mr McBride, who has admitted undermining Labour ministers by leaking damaging stories about them to the press in an effort to bolster Mr Brown’s position.

He told in his memoirs of accessing Mr Brown’s office email account and passing on details from some restricted documents, although he rewrote their language to make them look like a press briefing.

Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s former director of communications, told the Sunday Times that Mr McBride had “admitted not just to venality but criminality”. He said: “The other thing that people should be aware of is he [McBride] has admitted to criminal offences in this.”

On Sunday night a Conservative MP, Henry Smith, told The Independent: “The police should give consideration to the way Damian McBride has acted.

“If that included accessing other people’s computers and allegedly breaking data protection legislation, then that warrants further investigation.”

Mr Smith said he “would certainly consider” making a complaint to police following the disclosures in Mr McBride’s book, Power Trip.

Mr Campbell on Sunday claimed that Mr Brown’s spin doctors’ activities contributed to Labour’s loss of power.

He said Mr Brown had “unbelievable strengths”, was a great Chancellor and had handled the 2008-9 global financial crisis well.

But he added: “He had a real flaw for this need for truly horrible people to be around him, doing truly horrible things in politics and giving him, and the Labour Party, and politics, a bad name.”

The former Cabinet minister Dame Tessa Jowell, a Blairite who claimed to be a victim of smears from Brown loyalists, also challenged the ex-Prime Minister to make a statement on what was done in his name.

She said: “Gordon is not an innocent, it is inconceivable he did not know what Damian was doing. Damian clearly felt it was implicitly sanctioned.”

Mr Brown has so far made no public statement over the disclosures by Mr McBride.

Mr Miliband, who was a close ally of Mr Brown, said he had urged him to sack the controversial figure amid fears about his behaviour.

“I was concerned about the activities of Damian McBride and indeed I complained to Gordon Brown,” he told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show.

“I was worried there were indications he was briefing against colleagues and I didn’t think that was the way politics should be practised.

“You know how it is in politics. People tell you these things are going on and you have enough suspicion that they are so that was something I made clear to Gordon.”

Mr McBride confirmed Mr Miliband’s intervention, tweeting:  “He complained about me and told Gordon to get rid. Quite right too.”

The shadow Business Secretary, Chuka Umunna, told a conference fringe meeting that Mr McBride was “a relic from the past”. He added: “There is no place for that kind of nasty, vile politics in Britain today. I am glad we’ve seen the back of him.”

He said Mr Miliband had told the shadow Cabinet he would not tolerate “any of that kind of behaviour”. Mr Umunna said: “If anyone is found to be briefing against anybody you will be out, there’s no discussion.”