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John Rentoul

John Rentoul is chief political commentator for The Independent on Sunday, and visiting fellow at Queen Mary, University of London, where he teaches contemporary history. Previously he was chief leader writer for The Independent. He has written a biography of Tony Blair, whom he admired more at the end of his time in office than he did at the beginning.

"The Independent's must-read man" - Daniel Finkelstein

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Told you so (sort of)

Posted by John Rentoul
  • Tuesday, 14 April 2009 at 02:17 pm
Brilliant column by Steve Richards in The Independent this morning, which tells the most damaging story yet about Damian McBride:

On one occasion shortly before a presenter was about to interview a Cabinet minister McBride texted him with the message: “Ask him about his drinking problem.”

I assume that this took place before Gordon Brown became Prime Minister and that the Cabinet minister in question was considered to be a Blairite. McBride's tactics against the Conservatives were ill-advised and, as Alastair Campbell said, beside the point. But his tactics against the real enemy, that is, those with doubts about Brown in the Labour Party, were worse.

As Steve says, Brown bears the direct responsibility for his adviser's behaviour. If anything, Steve is too harsh in suggesting that the person most damaged by McBride's activities - and before him those of Charlie Whelan - is Brown himself. Brown did get to be Prime Minister, after all.

The trouble is that he did so at the expense of the Labour Party, now headed for defeat next year more certainly than before, as Michael Brown eloquently says in today's Independent.

We tried to warn people like Steve. Four months before Brown took over, we Blairite ultras said that David Miliband would be a better prime minister.

Indeed, we can name several other people who could be better, such as John Reid, Alan Johnson, John Hutton, Alan Milburn and Charles Clarke.

A year after Brown became Prime Minister
, I listed the tiny band of seven brave members of the Parliamentary Labour Party that had neither nominated Brown nor attempted to nominate John McDonnell or Michael Meacher, who do not deserve to be members of the party let alone leaders of it:
 
Charles Clarke, Jim Dowd, Frank Field, Kate Hoey, Peter Kilfoyle, Siobhain McDonagh and David Winnick.

As I said then, their consciences are clear.

Update: One of the seven has just offered his bleak assessment on his blog

Harold Wilson asserted that the Labour Party was a moral crusade or it was nothing. The McBride affair has left Labour members looking at nothing.