Labour Party Conference Sketch: On the mean streets of Brighton, Mad Dog is no match for Pinkie
Donald Macintyre writes political sketches for The Independent, having been Jerusalem correspondent since 2004, covering Israel and the Occupied Territories, as well as travelling for the paper to Iraq, Turkey, Jordan, Libya and Egypt. As Political Editor and then Chief Political Commentator, he previously covered the John Major and early Tony Blair era. He has written for the Daily Express, Sunday Times, Times and Sunday Telegraph, and Sunday Correspondent. He is the author of Mandelson and the Making of New Labour (2000).
Monday 23 September 2013
Until today, the most famous Roman Catholic with a penchant for knifing people to roam the streets of Brighton was Pinkie, the fictional protagonist of Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock. But with Damian McBride’s arrival at the seaside to haunt the Labour Party conference in person (if only from the outside since he hasn’t got a pass), there was a new contender.
Security was tight. A BBC car (he was in town to film for Newsnight) drove several times past a Travelodge before reversing into a back entrance, where a shutter lifted to reveal Gordon Brown’s former spin doctor in a checked open-necked shirt. McBride climbed in to the back and the car drove off. This tantalising glimpse of the man whose memoirs have been serialised under Daily Mail headlines large enough to announce the outbreak of World War III was about all there was, until his TV appearance last night.
So where was he all day? We called. We texted. We asked his predecessor Charlie Whelan, whose fearsome reputation when Brown was at the Treasury has been put in the shade by the politically homicidal exploits of his successor. Nothing. Perhaps, we heard later, he was “filming on the beach”. We pounded between the knots of sunbathers on the long pebble strand stretching east to a pier not that much changed since Greene’s day, save for the Brighton Wheel. Again, nothing. Yet if the security was there to prevent attacks by enraged delegates, it may not have been necessary.
Even Paul Kenny, the GMB leader (and no great friend of Ed Miliband), reportedly told a trade union liaison meeting that he doubted McBride’s memoirs would have much impact on the party at large because few had heard of him. The paradox had been that while the memoirs had played big in the media-political complex, the one place they weren’t on everyone’s lips was inside the Labour conference.
That was until last night, at any rate, when McBride acknowledged on Newsnight that “many people in the Labour movement think I’m a traitor for publishing a book lifting the lid on some of that feuding”. He then added: “I believe if Labour is going to avoid repeating its mistakes it’s got to learn from the past, exorcise its demons, and make sure that when it says those days are over, it means it.”
McBride’s reference to accusations of treachery may – at least in part – have reflected an exchange on Twitter with an acerbic Alastair Campbell. “When you say ‘royalties’ going to charity,” Blair’s spin chief tweeted, “does that include the advance from [publisher] @IainDale and the serial white collar crime?”, and: “You really are odious. Go and buy a drink for your best pal [Paul] Dacre [the Daily Mail editor, who reportedly paid £100,000 for the rights to the memoir].”
“Mad Dog” did confirm (via Twitter) Ed Miliband’s assertion that the Labour leader had asked Brown to fire his spinner. Not only does it seem to be true, but to suggest otherwise on the eve of Miliband’s speech today would have been a knifing too far, even in Greene’s violent Brighton.
- 1 Jennifer Lawrence scores first UK top 40 single with Hunger Games track 'The Hanging Tree'
- 2 Shia LaBeouf claims he was raped during #IAMSORRY art installation performance
- 4 Scientists predict green energy revolution after incredible new graphene discoveries
Kim Jong-un 'in dire need of allies' within his own government as younger sister appointed to senior role
Black Friday UK: The shops hit by chaos and violence as shopping frenzy sweeps country
Scientists predict green energy revolution after incredible new graphene discoveries
Russell Brand: 'Katy Perry? I don’t know who that is'
Michael Buerk wishes he killed Jimmy Savile when he had the chance - by pushing him overboard a cruise ship
Obama: The only people with the right to object to immigration are Native Americans
Ukip says babies born to immigrants in the UK should be classed as migrants – which would include Nigel Farage’s own children
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
Ukip mocked after mistaking Westminster Cathedral – for a mosque
David Cameron sets out immigration reforms: We should distrust Ukip and their 'snake-oil of simple solutions'
£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...
£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...
£35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...
£60k - 80k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...