If you want to know why Damian McBride was such a feared figure in Whitehall, read the section in his memoirs about how he sowed division between Charles Clarke, then the Home Secretary, and Louise Casey, the anti-social behaviour tsar. McBride’s approach was far more cunning than straight negative briefings or leaks. Rather, he went through the government grid looking for announcements in this policy area and then briefed them out to the papers in a way that made it sound like it had come from either Clarke or Casey’s teams.
The result was that both sides became convinced that the other was trying to take all the credit for what the government was doing on this front. This made an already bad relationship thoroughly dysfunctional and, as McBride says, played a part in Clarke’s downfall.
The McBride book is going to dominate the bar-room chat at Labour conference. It will, just as Ed Miliband is trying to talk about the future, make everyone in the Labour remember and — judging by Ben Wegg-Prosser’s decision to release Number 10’s anti-coup emails — refight past battles.