Infighting Memoir Overshadows U.K. Labour Party ConferenceKitty Donaldson
A memoir by an aide to former U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown that details infighting at the heart of the previous Labour government overshadowed the start of the annual convention of the party now led by Ed Miliband.
“Power Trip: A Decade of Policy, Plots and Spin” by Damian McBride is being serialized in the Daily Mail newspaper. It tells of McBride’s attempts to neutralize criticism of Brown within the party by passing on to the media stories about ministers including alcohol abuse and extramarital affairs.
Miliband, an ally of Brown, served as energy secretary in his government until the party was ousted from power in 2010. The Independent on Sunday newspaper yesterday cited an unidentified party source as saying that Miliband, who succeeded Brown as Labour leader, may have been copied on e-mails that were at the center of the 2009 smear campaign.
“It is extremely embarrassing for the party that the memoirs are being published at the time of the party conference,” Mark Wickham-Jones, a professor of politics at Bristol University, said in a telephone interview. “While the serialization will have a short shelf life and dates from five years ago, there is an open question over whether Miliband has made a start building new relationships and instilling new rules.”
Miliband sought yesterday to distance himself from the allegations, which are also being published at a time when Labour’s poll lead over Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives is narrowing amid a strengthening economy.
“People who know me would say I am someone who was never engaged in the factionalism and never engaged in the briefing,” Miliband told BBC television’s “Andrew Marr Show” yesterday in Brighton, the conference venue on England’s south coast. “That’s not my style of politics; it’s never been my style of politics. I find it reprehensible.”
Continuing the serialization in today’s Daily Mail newspaper McBride says he and Miliband had a “real friendship”. McBride claims the relationship with Miliband only soured when the current Labour leader believed McBride had briefed journalists about his role in the decision not to call a general election in 2007, just after Brown took power from Tony Blair.
McBride was forced to resign as a special adviser to Brown in 2009 after newspaper reports showed e-mails that discussed using websites supporting Labour to publish false claims about lawmakers from the then opposition Conservatives.
“It’s a matter of public record: I was concerned about the activities of Damian McBride and, indeed, I complained to Gordon Brown about it,” Miliband said. Asked if he had urged Brown to fire McBride, the Labour leader said: “I did, yes.”
One YouGov Plc survey last week showed the Tories running neck-and-neck with the opposition party. Some Labour lawmakers broke ranks last month to criticize Miliband’s leadership style.
Labour Treasury spokesman Ed Balls, touring television studios today to publicize a new policy on free childcare for working parents, was repeatedly questioned about his relationship with McBride and denied he was involved in any briefing against colleagues.
“People know that Ed Miliband and I have been doing things in a very different way for some years now compared to those Blair-Brown days,” he told Francine Lacqua in an interview with Bloomberg Television from Brighton. “There was awful personal smearing briefing which we both condemned absolutely, but there was a wider antagonism, rows about policy, factionalism, which went on over the last 15 years, and that has changed, we’re not going back to those days. Those were bad times and they’re gone.”