Resigned No 10 aide committed 'serious breach'

Resigned Downing Street aide Damian McBride committed a serious breach of the special advisers' code of conduct, Whitehall's top civil servant said today.

Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell wrote to the Tories saying the actions of Gordon Brown's former head of strategy and planning fell "far short" of the public's expectations.

He warned that any repeat of the behaviour by special advisers would result in automatic dismissal.

Mr McBride, a longstanding adviser to the Prime Minister, resigned at the weekend after it emerged he had written emails making unfounded personal allegations about senior Tories.

Responding to a letter from Conservative Party chairman Francis Maude, Sir Gus wrote today: "What happened constituted a clear and serious breach of the Code of Conduct for Special Advisers.

"It cannot and has not been tolerated."

The Cabinet Secretary confirmed that Mr McBride had not received severance pay, adding: "As the PM has made clear, the events reported over the past weekend were not acceptable, and fell far short of the high standards the public has a right to expect."

Sir Gus said he had written to all permanent secretaries - the chief civil servant in each department - to inform them of an update to the code of conduct.

"In particular, under this strengthened guidance, it has been made specifically clear that special advisers will automatically be dismissed if they are ever found to be preparing and disseminating inappropriate material," he said.

Special advisers are to be required to sign an undertaking that they are aware of the new guidance.

Mr Maude asked Sir Gus to investigate whether Cabinet Office Minister Tom Watson was aware of the website plans. Sir Gus wrote back: "Tom Watson has made his own position clear."

Mr Watson issued a statement through lawyers yesterday insisting he had "no involvement in or knowledge of" the proposals to set up an attack website called Red Rag.

Carter-Ruck solicitors said complaints had been lodged with two newspapers over stories containing allegations that he was involved with the offending emails.

The Prime Minister is facing criticism from within the Labour ranks over the emails affair.

Senior Labour MPs said the scandal exposed an unhealthy culture of hostile briefings - often against them - and a serious need for the Government to focus on policy.

Former minister Frank Field said it showed two sides to Mr Brown's character - including one which is about controlling people - adding: "Mr McBride thought he was doing his master's bidding. He wouldn't have done it otherwise."

Tory leader David Cameron said yesterday that Mr Brown bore responsibility for creating a culture that allowed a senior aide to consider smearing top Conservatives.

He said only a change in government would bring an end to such "nonsense".

Tory backbencher Nadine Dorries, who was among those targeted by Mr McBride, stepped up calls for Mr Brown to make a full apology.

Ms Dorries, MP for Mid Bedfordshire, hit out at both the tone and the content of a letter sent to her by Mr Brown which expressed regret, but stopped short of him saying sorry.

It was sent after Mr McBride quit after admitting he wrote "juvenile and inappropriate" emails from his Downing Street account to former spin doctor Derek Draper.

Mr Draper revealed today he was considering stepping down from running LabourList, a Labour-supporting website.

He also told the Guardian that he "deeply regretted" his part in the smear emails.

"I should not have responded to Damian's email as I did. I should have said sorry, that is wrong, I will have nothing to do with it," he said.

Schools Secretary Ed Balls said he thought the emails were "vile, despicable and horrible" but suggested all parties needed to "raise standards".

"There's no place in politics for that kind of stuff, I think it's awful," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

"I also think it was awful that those emails were published.

"I don't know how they came into the public domain but the fact they were published and smeared across the newspapers is also awful - but Damian's behaviour was unacceptable."

Mr Balls added: "I think all of us in politics, in the Labour party and all political parties, need to look in ourselves ... and the people we employ, the activities they're undertaking, the things they are doing.

"We all need to work to raise standards and stamp this out."

He added: "All leaders have got responsibility to look at the people they employ and the tactics that they employ."

Mr Balls said he worked with Mr McBride when he was a Treasury special adviser and said he was "generally thought to have done a good job".

But in this case, a "terrible misdemeanour" had taken place, he said.

The Prime Minister was "furious and appalled" by the emails.

"What he wants to do is get back to the big issues which matter to people around the country."

Mr Balls said he and his MP wife, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Yvette Cooper, had been "smeared" in the past by the Guido Fawkes website.

He said: "If you look at the kind of comments made by people on those websites - it's homophobic, it's misogynist, it's deeply sexual and awful and I would never want my children to see the things that have been written about us."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
Arts and Entertainment
Darrell Banks’s ‘Open The Door To Your Heart’
Detective Tam Bui works for the Toronto Police force
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor winner Ben Haenow has scored his first Christmas number one
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'