Andy McSmith's Diary: McBride hopes for some Catholic forgiveness

Our man in Brighton

Damian McBride has had several high-voltage days since the serialisation of his memoirs began, rushing from one television interview to another: but it will be back to reality for him when he returns to work at the Catholic charity Cafod, where he may find the atmosphere a little strained. It’s initial reaction to his confessional memoir, Power Trip, was to stand by their head of media and PR, saying that they knew he had done some bad things, but everyone deserves a chance of redemption.

“Cafod has strong relationships with many figures across the political spectrum… Damian McBride’s work for Cafod has had no bearing on those relationships in the past and we do not expect it to do so in the future. Politicians are intelligent people well capable of distinguishing Cafod the organisation from the background of any individual employees,” the charity’s chief executive, Chris Bain, told The Tablet, as the serialisation in the Daily Mail began.

But two days later, the trustees were showing signs of nervousness about McBride’s renewed notoriety. “Cafod’s trustees and corporate leadership team share the sense of outrage at the story about British politics as described in Damian McBride’s book,” they said in a statement.

They added, generously: “Cafod recruited and employs Damian based on who he is today, not who he was in the past, and it would go against all Catholic values – including the belief in forgiveness and redemption – to judge him for the behaviour and character he demonstrated in the past.”

But then comes the ominous conclusion: “Cafod’s trustees are examining fully the implications which have arisen from the serialisation and the whole book and are carefully considering any appropriate action.”

Mr McBride might be wise to return to work with a humble and penitent air.

What I meant to add...

It must be frustrating after you have delivered a speech more than an hour long to remember afterwards that having remembered so much, you forgot something important.

That fate befell Ed Miliband after Tuesday’s virtuoso note-free, prompter-free performance. When he got to the bit where he said “I have got a message for the Tories today: if they want to have a debate about leadership and character, be my guest” – he meant to throw in a challenge to David Cameron to agree to hold live televised debates in the 2015 election, as the three main party leaders did in 201.

Luckily, Mr Miliband had a second chance the next day, when he was doing a question and answer session with conference delegates, so he slipped the challenge in then.

Bryant toes the female line

The Labour Women’s Network, a pressure group that exists to get more women into prominent positions in public life, spent several days in Brighton buttonholing male politicians and persuading them to be photographed holding a sign in which they promised never to appear on an all-male panel. The shadow Home Office minister, Chris Bryant, was one of the first they zinged.

A couple of days later, he was asked to stand in for his boss, Yvette Cooper, at a fringe meeting organised by the New Statesman, but what should he see when he arrived but a panel of four men and no women. Mr Bryant politely but firmly refused to join them, and announced that he would sit in the audience. There was a 10-minute hiatus while the organisers scurried about until they successfully found a woman who valiantly came in and took the chair, as the only way they could get their star guest to join the panel.

A hint of what’s to come?

Ed Miliband’s announcement that Labour would freeze energy prices for two years produced predictable cries of despair from the energy sector, including dark hints of power cuts.

Even Digby Jones, the former CBI boss who was given a peerage and a ministerial job by Gordon Brown, has accused the Labour leader of “sacrificing Britain’s prosperity on an altar of tribal socialism.”

It is, of course, pure coincidence that on that very evening the lights went out for 10 minutes in the part of north London that includes the Miliband family home.

An express felling

The Daily Mirror party at Labour conference was enlivened by a coconut shy featuring three of those fruits made up to represent the heads of David Cameron, George Osborne and Boris Johnson. The balls were the light kind found in children’s ball ponds. That was no problem for Kirsty Buchanan, political editor of the Sunday Express, who felled all three of the nations’ foremost Tories in just three shots.

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