Friday, April 17, 2009

Former Labour Minister: Gordon Has Always Smeared Labour Colleagues

Brian Wilson was a Minister in Tony Blair's government from 1997-2003 and was a Scottish Labour MP between 1987 and 2005. He finished his period in office as Minister for Energy. He, perhaps better than most, was in a position to observee Gordon Brown and his way of doing business. A reader has kindly retyped his column from this week's edition of the West Highland Free Press. Gordon will not be amused...

Listening to that news bulletin, dominated as it was by the scandal of Mr Damian McBride and his vile emails, I could not help thinking how fortunate I was to be be, both literally and metaphorically, hundreds of miles away from such a well of poison. Politics does not need to be like that and most of the time it is not. But there is always enough of it around to turn what should be a noble and uplifting experience into a source of unhappiness and paranoia. Mr McBride and others of his species have a lot to answer for.

They are not attached exclusively to any one party or leader but to the prospect of power and influence. However, the problem for – or rather with – Gordon Brown is that he has always had a coterie of them around him. How specifically they were licensed to act on his behalf, as opposed to being given a general freelance role to serve his perceived interests, has long been a matter of contention.

The only abnormality about the McBride affair is that his proposed smears were to be directed against the Tories. For as long as I was in politics, and I am sure it has not changed, most of this kind of activity was directed against Labour colleagues who, however improbably, had been branded as enemies of, or potential rivals to, Gordon. That operation predated the Blair leadership but was sustained with ruthless efficiency throughout it.

Over the past few days, these inconvenient truths have been endlessly written and spoken about in the media. But someone should be asking searching questions of the people who are now so anxious to tell us that they have known for years how McBride and his cronies operated – briefing viciously and always, of course, anonymously against anyone who attracted their displeasure.

They could only get away with this, year after year, because the same media were prepared not only to protect their anonymity but also to spread their poison. I have always taken the view that if a partisan politician (or adviser) briefs against a colleague (or opponent), the only matter of public interest lies in who is doing the briefing, rather than in what is being said about the intended victim.

The argument used against this simple dictum has been that journalists are obliged to protect sources – a high-minded principle which, in this context, is also utter rubbish. The protection of sources should apply, without compromise, to people who have put themselves at risk to bring matters of legitimate interest into the public domain. To confuse that noble principle with the protection of ghastly sneaks like McBride is self-serving nonsense. And the whole dirty business of anonymous briefing against people could be brought to an end overnight if it was made clear that anonymity is no longer guaranteed. That is indeed one very good thing that could and should come out of this squalid affair.

That hackneyed old phrase about your enemies aren't on the other side, they're behind you seems rather apt, all of a sudden, doesn't it?

31 comments:

wild said...

If (the usual) Leftist smears were only directed against "Tories" (and any other perceived opponent of "The Party") I very much doubt that we would have heard a word of complaint from him.

Anonymous said...

Looks like Alex Hilton is going to get into trouble again...

POLL: Greatest Labour Leader

http://www.labourhome.org/story/2009/4/17/101614/262

Poor old Gordo getting trounced by Blair...and ...erm... beaten by Michael Foot.

Unsworth said...

They really cannot go on for much longer like this, surely? We're witnessing the Labour Party imploding, thrashing around on its deathbed in its final agonies, lashing out at its nearest and dearest who are gathered round viewing this horror.

The only thing that will put it out of its agonies is the swift and mortal wound of a General Election. We should not hesitate, it's time to be cruel to be kind.

Martin Day said...

I have noticed a strong degree of candour in Mr Wilson's well timed interventions in recent years.

He is like Frank Field, much better at articulating the Labour agenda mainly because like Frank he is Honest.

Blair/Brown/Mandelson/Mcbride/
Draper simply don't seem to get you cannot fool anyone all of the time. Yet they try and do so with there distortion/smears/spin!

Why? Surely they have something they can positively advocate? If not they might as well pack up shop now! (Like the Liberal Democrats seem to have done!)

Cherio Labour and LD's at the next election!!!!

Old Holborn said...

Call Jacqui something rude on your blog, and I'll advertise your blof for free

It's TRUE

Silent Hunter said...

Let's not forget that Mr Wilson went from being Energy Minister to a nice little earner as a spokesman for the power industry (including Nuclear).

Now I'm sure that his listening to the power industry lobbyists whilst he was Minister and his subsequent well paid job for them couldn't possibly be related in any way; now could they?

Hellooooo!

Reality check guys!

He's NOT "that nice Sergeant Wilson from Dads Army" He's an ex LABOUR Minister who went on to a Fat Cat job in the industry he was supposed to 'regulate' and that spells............ C O R R U P T I O N.

Grumpy Old Man said...

Ian. hugely off topic but I don't know how to contact you. Read http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,618780,00.html. Gordons' "G 20 triumph" unravels a little more.

Silent Hunter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
chatterbox said...

Iain, have you seen that hatchet job on Guido in the Telegraph tonight?

Humpty Dumpty said...

I suspect that many previous victims of Gordo and his band of brothers will put their heads above the parapet in the next few weeks - they will detect the scent of Scottish blood seeping from his mortal wounds and move in for the kill.

BrianSJ said...

If Scottish Labour cracks open, it will be huge. Most of Scottish Labour is like Brown and the dirt to be dished will be astonishing.

Anonymous said...

Catch this prat Wilson (and his family) at Celtic Park every second weekend.
With Jim Murphy & family (Scottish Sec of State), John Reid & family, and Des Browne & family & ...
Friends of traitors of the State &
Sectarian Bigots all.
What are we doing allowing these odious individuals have access to national secrets ?
No place for these vermin and their likes in political life.

Bob Piper said...

Iain, I'm glad you appreciate Brian Wilson's judgement of character and leadership. Brian thinks the sun shines out of every one of Tony Blair's orifices, and as it says in his Wikipedia reference...

"He has written extensively in defence of Cuba and about his meetings with Fidel Castro. Writing in the Guardian about Castro's decision to step down as Cuban President, Wilson said that he had "outwitted the United States and its 50 year obsession one last time" by ensuring an orderly transition in government while he was still alive.

Fine man, say I, and I'm so pleased you see it our way. I'm off to see Fidel myself next week in preperation for the Cuban labour day celebrations. I'll pass on yours and Brian's kind thoughts.

Andrew Efiong said...

Brown is an ogre, a bully, a villain. We've known this for a long time but it's time the rest of the electorate wised up.

Oscar Miller said...

It wasn't all red on red action. Gordon's gang has been desperately smearing Cameron since his leadership campaign:

Labour's 'dirty tricks' over secret Cameron dossier

javelin said...

The best thing for Labour is to put up Johnson and call an election. They will lose, but not by as much of a landslide as they would under Brown.

Anonymous said...

Let use not forget that in the eighties BW and John Reid were Kinnock's hard men/enforcers in the party at a time when it was a very nasty place to operate indeed. He knows A LOT ( and is likely not that pure and white himself)...

Lola said...

Ferretts. Sacks.

Twisted Root said...

Unfortunately I can't attribute the story, but it goes like this;
A rookie MP was taking his seat in the House of Commons for the first time gazes across the floor, turns to his colleague and comments, "Nice to get a good look at the enemy".
His colleague an MP of several decades standing replies,"That's the opposition, the enemy is on this side of the House".

georgeorwellslittlesister said...

Scottish politics have always been a snakepit.
Students of sixteenth century history can give you chapter and verse on the tartan-clad vipers who surrounded the Mary, Queen of Scots and her son James.
Plus ca change.

Andrew said...

Hypocrisy from Wilson---a nasty piece of work if ever there was one.

And now earning megabucks, as others have said.

Why didn't he speak out before? Oh that might have meant him missing out on the megabucks...

Anonymous said...

Hmmm... His point about 'protecting sources' is a tricky one though.

A journalist will want to establish that a source is either 'On The Record..' Or 'Off the Record'.

If the Spin-Doctor says that 'You have to promise that this will be Off The Record and unattributable', that is fine - the journalist can say 'Well, I cannot accept it on that basis'.

What they cannot say is 'Yes, I accept it on that basis..' and then change their mind AFTER hearing the story, and realising it is just a load of vitriolic bile against someone. They have given their word, rightly or wrongly.

Of course, they could say "Yes I accept it as Off The Record so long as it is a legitimate story, but if, heaven forfend, it turns into a personal attack / sliming / stitch up / vituperation of a snide and personal nature, then all bets are off.." but I suspect that this sort of thing will only happen in very bad films or in the fertile imaginations of very naive journalism students.

sobers said...

@anonymous10:20: What should happen then is that the editors of the major newspapers and TV stations agree that no quotes will be printed or aired, unless a named person is attributed. No more 'sources close to' or 'friends of' etc etc. The media should clean up its act, and force politicians to do likewise.

Nigel said...

Anonymous @10.20

I fail to see the problem with his point about
"protection of ghastly sneaks like McBride (being) self-serving nonsense..."

It's not about a single instance of a potentially interesting disclosure. It is about a long standing arrangement where a government representative gets a free pass from journalists to anonymously publish smears.

The response to shit like this should be - "sorry, I can't print that unless you are willing to put your name to it."

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article6108896.ece
'...Whitehall sources unleashed an extraordinary salvo at Christopher Galley, the civil servant who leaked to Mr Green but was also freed from the threat of criminal prosecution. One labelled him a “complete loser”. Claiming that he had used a term from Star Trek as a computer log-in, an insider said: “That says it all, doesn’t it. The guy was a laughing stock.”...'

Silent Hunter said...

Oh good, call me B O B Piper, is off to Cuba.

Hooray!
I hear all those tax payers in his council ward cheering that they have been given this wonderful opportunity to send their elected representative(and how many of his mates and family one wonders?) on an all expenses paid trip to sunnier climes whilst they stay in rainy blighty and try to pay their mortgages and utility bills and try to feed their kids.

I'm sure they will all be simply delighted that B O B will no doubt be enjoying himself at their expense.

Good old Labour Councillors - they just love their little overseas junkets - say Hi to Speaker Martin and his wife if you bump into them B O B !

I believe they're also touring the world on a "fact finding" mission for Labour at a cool £8,000 all expenses trip.

How much is YOUR trip costing your voters B O B ?

John MacLeod said...

Hm. I have known Brian Wilson for many years and, with the possible exception of Winnie Ewing, I have probably been savaged more often in his editorials than any other minor Highland figure (though I must say the insults are always deft and delicious.)

We are of radically opposed politics, and he is certainly a robust and hardball politician: but he is a man of honour and a man of integrity, who sacrificed a great deal materially through many years of public service, both in politics and in journalism.

Johnny Norfolk said...

Brown was a student trouble maker and still is.

DougtheDug said...

Iain, you're quite right about the, "enemies behind you bit", as this editorial in the WHFP is just part of the end-game in the factional fight between the Blairites and the Brownies which is being played out in public in the "Fin de si├Ęcle" air of a decaying and exhausted government. Always keep in mind that Brian is not attacking Labour, their record in government or their policies but Brown.

Funny old world isn't it. Brian used to be a leather-jacketed left wing celebrity in the Highlands dedicated to attacking the lairds, the rich and the powerful but now he's a very rich man who loves Whitehall, the establishment and his beloved Britain.

Fine words from him, but the phrase "unhappiness and paranoia" is a perfect description of Brian's attitude towards the SNP which he displays frequently in his editorials in the Skye Beano.

Thatsnews said...

Looks like it's getting a bit hot for Gordon. Good.

Thatsnews said...

Well, you know what they say, Bob? He who pays the Piper...

Dave H said...

"...Mr McBride and others of his species..."

In taxonomic terms the subdivision of this genus is known as Gordonus Bullya