The penance of Damian McBride continues. After being ejected from No10, and disowned by his mentor Ed Balls, I can reveal that our antihero now has a new job – head of media at the Catholic overseas aid charity CAFOD. He will be doubtless be brilliantly effective at briefing against its enemies (in CAFOD’s case, hunger and the devil). I imagine the pay is several leagues below what he’d get from cashing in on his notoriety and publishing a hit man’s confessions.
The weird thing is that McBride could have done so well, had he steered clear of Balls. He was a Treasury civil servant, specialising in VAT, before Balls trained him up in the art of character assassination. Balls and Brown plucked him, Mowgli-like, and made him their hit man. But he was (and is) intelligent, cheerful, hardworking, and amiable to those he regarded as useful. He would build alliances with unlikely media partners.
But what McBride had a genius for was gossip: working out which nuggets of info are useful to journalists. Not embarrassing stuff, but examples of (say) Brown setting off the burglar alarm on his way to some weirdly early start to the day. The type of anecdote which lifts a column, gives it colour – and is gold dust to columnists. If McBride was your source, you didn’t need very many others.
He went because of Guido’s sting. But he took the entire rap for the thuggishness and nastiness of the Brown operation – and wrongly so. He was a graduate of the Brown-Balls school of character assassination and intimidation. Now, only Balls remains. And many members Labour MPs have not forgiven him.
As for McBride, he’s done his time. For almost two years he has been ‘business liaison officer’ at Finchley Catholic High School (he was interviewed by pupils for the job). Now CAFOD. One wonders if he has any plans to climb further up the Catholic hierarchy – aged just 37, there’s plenty of time.