British premier’s aide quits over smear scandal

April 12th, 2009 - 7:06 pm ICT by IANS  

Gordon Brown London, April 12 (IANS) A close and senior aide to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has resigned after being found to have sent out emails suggesting a smear campaign targetting front-ranking members of the opposition Conservative Party.
Damien McBride, a long-standing adviser to the ruling Labour Party, quit after the emails, sent from the Prime Minister’s official 10 Downing Street email address, suggested a campaign against Conservative leader David Cameron, the shadow chancellor (finance minister) George Osborne and three other Tory MPs.

While the prime minister’s office had initially dismissed the emails as “juvenile and inappropriate,” McBride resigned Saturday night - just ahead of a newspaper giving out details of the messages.

The Sunday Times said the e-mails suggested: “Putting the fear of God” into Osborne by spreading rumours that he took drugs and had sex with a prostitute; spreading rumours about the mental health of Osborne’s wife; challenging Cameron to reveal details of an “embarrassing illness”; and accusing a gay Tory MP of promoting his partner’s business interests in the parliament.

The e-mails were sent to Derek Draper, a former aide to Britain’s Business Secretary (minister) Lord Peter Mandelson.

Draper, who runs a blog called LabourList, emailed McBride back: “Absolutely totally brilliant Damian. I’ll think about timing and sort out the technology this week so we can go as soon as possible.”

The Jan 13 emails were broken into and revealed by Paul Staines, a blogger who described the messages as “obscene and over the line of what’s allowable in politics”.

The scandal comes at a time when the Labour Party is facing a serious political challenge from the Conservatives.

With general elections due within 14 months, Labour trailed the Conservatives by 13 percentage points in a poll by Populus Ltd. published in the Sunday Times April 5.

Brown, accepting McBride’s resignation, said there was “no place in politics for the dissemination or publication of material of this kind” but there were reports Sunday that one of the targeted Conservative Party MPs was considering legal action.

Nadine Dorris said: “I am incensed. I wonder how Gordon Brown would feel if a Conservative Central Office employee sent emails with slanderous 100 percent lies about (his wife) Sarah Brown.”

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