Lord O'Donnell: I warned Gordon Brown not to take Damian McBride to Downing Street from the Treasury

Former Cabinet Secretary says McBride had 'gone off the territory' even as a civil servant

Gordon Brown was damaged by taking controversial spin doctor Damian McBride with him from the Treasury when he became Prime Minister, according to a former Cabinet Secretary.

Lord O’Donnell, who held the post from 2005 until 2011, revealed that the then incoming Prime Minister chose to ignore advice O'Donnell had given him in 2007.

McBride was Brown's special adviser both when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Prime Minister, but quit in 2009 over his involvement in a plot to smear political opponents.

Prior to his tenure serving Brown as a spin doctor, he worked for him as a Treasury Civil Servant, when Lord O’Donnell was the department’s permanent secretary.

Speaking at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, Lord O'Donnell said Mr McBride had “gone off the territory”, even as a civil servant.

"As it is clear in Damian's book, so I can talk about it now, Damian basically did not act as a civil servant," Lord O'Donnell said. “He was briefing against other ministers, as he makes clear in his book, and that's inappropriate as a civil servant.

"I had to say to Gordon Brown 'no sorry, he cannot carry on doing what he's doing and he'll have to resign'.

“So he resigns as a civil servant and gets re-appointed as a special adviser. Special advisers are appointed by ministers and I can't do anything about that.

"I advised Gordon Brown when he was coming across to No 10 not to take Damian with him and he chose to."

McBride’s memoir Power Trip was published in September, and coincided with the Labour Party’s annual conference.

However, Lord O'Donnell, who sits in the House of Lords as a crossbench peer, said that he "really liked" the idea of a "good" special adviser.

"They make the system work. Civil servants are by their nature there to be objective and not to get involved in any party issues," he said.

"Good special advisers will do those things that civil servants can't. I do think it is important though that special advisers do make a point of thinking 'my job is to help the Government'. That's the good side.

“The bad side is when they think their job is to boost their minister at the cost of other ministers. That's when it goes wrong.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Voices
A mother and her child
voices
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
Tax now accounts for ‘nearly 80%’ of the price of a bottle of whisky
news

Arts and Entertainment
Peppa Pig wearing her golden boots
film

"Oink! Oink! Hee hee hee!" First interview with the big-screen star

Life and Style
tech

Biohacking group hopes technology will lead people to think about even more dystopian uses

2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior .Net Application Developer

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£14000 - £17500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The successful applicant will b...

Recruitment Genius: Continuous Improvement Manager

£41500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is going through a period o...

Recruitment Genius: Data Entry Administrator

£10670 - £16640 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee