It is being billed as the “must read” political book of the year. And for once – perhaps – the hyperbole may be justified.
Senior Labour figures are nervously awaiting the publication of the memoirs of Gordon Brown’s infamous former spin-doctor Damian McBride – the final chapter of which was handed in to his publishers yesterday.
The release of the book, called Power Trip: A Decade of Policy, Plots and Spin, is being deliberately timed to coincide with the start of the Labour conference – and will provide a headache for the Labour leader Ed Miliband and the shadow Chancellor Ed Balls.
Mr Miliband, Mr Balls and Mr McBride were all key members of Mr Brown’s inner circle as the future Prime Minister plotted to overthrow Tony Blair.
Already several right-of-centre newspaper groups have indicated that they will bid for serialisation rights. Labour fears that the book will be “gutted” for anecdotes that cast Mr Miliband in a bad light.
Mr McBride – nicknamed “Mad Dog” or “McPoison” – was plucked by Mr Brown from the Treasury press office to become his special adviser – briefing journalists and masterminding Mr Brown’s covert war against Mr Blair.
When Mr Brown eventually entered Downing Street he took Mr McBride with him as principle political “spinner” and he had a front-row seat as Downing Street grappled with the magnitude of the financial crisis.
The account of the banking meltdown and Mr Brown’s increasingly fractious relationship with his own Chancellor, Alistair Darling, is expected to feature heavily in his memoir which is described as “thematic”.
Mr Darling famously accused Mr Brown and Mr Balls of unleashing the “forces of hell” in a briefing against him – believed to refer to Mr McBride. Mr McBride was eventually forced to resign in April 2009 after a series of emails he wrote smearing senior Tories were leaked to the press.
Oddly for a life-long Labour supporter the book is being published by Iain Dale, a former Conservative Party candidate whose company, Biteback Publishing, bought the rights earlier this year. Mr Dale described it as a “very, very honest book” that would be devoured by the “political village”.
“Obviously it is an account of his time working for Gordon Brown but it is not a conventional memoir,” he said. “It is thematic and it looks at the lessons that can be learnt from the period. He does not hold back his criticisms either of himself or anyone else.”
Newspaper groups interested in bidding for the book will be allowed to read it ahead of its publication after signing confidentiality agreements.
Mr Dale said each group would then be asked to put in their “highest” bid for the extracts – with no further bidding rounds.
Since being forced to resign Mr McBride has been working for the Catholic aid charity Cafod as well as writing a blog – which began with tantalising vignettes on his time in power before becoming markedly less political since signing the book contract.
Among the stories rumoured to be in the book is an account of how Gordon Brown came close to resigning after he inadvertently leaked details of market-sensitive numbers in one of his Budgets.
Mr McBride gave a flavour of life working for Mr Brown last year in a blog post describing the former PM’s infamous temper. He wrote: “There are two phrases that every former Gordon Brown staffer got used to hearing when he couldn’t hide his exasperation with them any longer. The first – delivered slowly and usually punctuated with a pounding fist on the back of a chair – was ‘Too. Many. Mistakes.’ The second – delivered in a strangled growl, usually at the person he wanted to murder on the spot – was: ‘I NEED NEW PEOPLE’.”
Mr Dale said he had banned Mr McBride from talking to the media ahead of the book’s launch. However in a previous interview he said that he wanted to describe what it was like to work in government. “I hope that, like my blog, this book will be a chance not only to give my account of what happened during Gordon Brown’s time in office, but also to give an insight into what life is like for those working in government today,” he said.
Royalties will be split between Cafod and the appeal by Mr McBride’s former employers Finchley Catholic High School to build a new sixth-form centre.