Last week politics in Britain took a real bashing.
Damian McBride, Gordon Brown’s spin-doctor who ran smear campaigns from Downing Street, confessed in his explosive political memoir of having destroyed the careers of two senior ministers and ‘hacked’ into secret Cabinet files. To obtain his objectives, he used the dark arts of media manipulation.
In a viciously disturbing book, he tells how he regularly put the knife into opponents by tipping off newspapers about ‘drug use, spousal abuse, and alcoholism and extra marital affairs’. These revelations, coming from a figure central to Mr Brown’s political operations, will no doubt incommode Ed Miliband and Ed Balls, the former prime minister’s closest allies. The pair were apparently in constant contact with Mr McBride, raising serious issues of what they knew about his brutal tactics. It also begs the more relevant question of whether Mr Brown was party to these machinations which one might assume he was cognisant of.
Two of the victims of Mr McBride were Home Secretary Charles Clark, whose demise was due to the fabrication of a briefing war between him and a key adviser to Tony Blair, and the other was John Reid, considered an obstacle to Mr Brown, who quit the same Cabinet post after Mr McBride leaked details of his ‘alleged drinking, fighting and carousing’.
Allegations about another minister, Ivan Lewis, pestering a female aide were leaked to punish him for criticising Mr Brown’s tax policies. Mr McBride also confesses to logging in to Mr Brown’s office email and leaking details of restricted or confidential documents to discredit opponents. Mr Brown, we are told, developed an elaborate ‘political intelligence operation’ with ‘moles’ on the teams of rival ministers.
What a mishmash of unspeakable behaviour, hypocrisy and disloyalty at the very heart of politics. The Labour Party will have to cleanse itself first and banish this scurrilous infighting, and prove to the electorate that it is worthy of their trust which I’m afraid they have lost. Will they be able to shake their toxic legacy? Only time will tell.
When you look back at both Labour prime ministers, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, you feel a sense of shame that despite their greed for power, hypocrisy and some of the most appalling policies that almost brought this country to its knees, you wonder why anyone in his right mind would want to hear them speak and pay large sums of money for the privilege. To gain what? you may ask. To listen to a lot of boring cackle that will only strengthen our dismay and horror, or maybe to mourn the descent of politics into a hellish pitfall from which it will take many a generation to sanitise.
As for the Conservatives, they suffer from a different malaise. They have, thanks to David Cameron, an image problem they need to address as a matter of urgency. Some of his reforms, namely his gay marriage legislation, have angered many of their traditional supporters who believe ardently in their Christian faith and resent the implications that such a legislation may give rise to. They maintain that the law as it stood gave ample protection to the gay community without adding the provocation of an unnecessary dissension within the ranks of the party. The sudden virtual collapse of their membership bears witness to the enormity of the problem it has engendered.
Furthermore they cannot rely on a future coalition with the Lib Dems, who would rather join forces with Labour simply because they share the same loony ethos about equality and clobbering the rich and the middle classes.
All liberal-minded people share the view that equal opportunity is a human right that no one should be denied, but equality in its broader sense is neither possible nor commendable. It stifles the competitive edge that gives birth to creative energy without which the world would remain static and development impeded.
For the Tories to regain power on their own steam without being hostage to the policies of another party, they desperately need to cultivate their soiled image; to stop tankering with platitudes and go to the heart of the matter, transforming political decline into a respectable resurgence, thereby fostering the trust of the electorate once again.
Going back to basics, old-fashioned as it sounds, is perhaps their only way to salvation.