Drapergate: Labour falls into a banal pit of despond……

In case you missed it, there’s a full blown ruck going on in Westminster… It looks to me to be knockout to Guido in third round of the death match he’s been playing with ingenue Labour blogger Derek Draper. Go to Guido’s site and just scroll for the endless barbecue (but check out Manic’s blog for the counterspin to Guido’s)… The reason he’s celebrating: he has a scalp, a Peterhouse boy, and Arsenal and Celtic fan, as well as a special advisor to Gordon Brown (and a thoroughly Machivellian piece of work according to Jon Snow).

You can pick up Paul Colgan’s short interview with Guido on RTE this morning… The Tories, naturally enough, are milking it for all it is worth… They are now asking for an inquiry into smears that were until the weekend subject of a single ‘private’ email correspondence between McBride and Draper… It includes what seems likely to be an abortive attempt to drag Tom Watson into the mess – there’s a bit of previous on that score.There are, it seems to me, a few lessons to be drawn from this matter.

One is that if you are going to get into the business of smearing your opponents (and I would strongly advise against it), make them plausibly deniable. Guido has traded in smears of his political opponents from the start, some of it very personal and involving family members of the intended Labour party victim. But, so far as we know, he is not on the Conservative party payroll!

But, as I argued on Brassneck in February, Draper was wrong headed in his handling of his blog Labour List… He and his party have paid a high price for the banal nihilism card of getting your opponents, no matter what…

According to John Lloyd, at the heart of this scandal heart lies a game about which Draper was thinking both clearly and logically long before his grand entrance into the British political blogosphere:

…Brown’s realisation that he must fire McBride and apologise personally to those whose reputations he was attempting to shred was a belated necessity. Yet it leaves the suspicion that McBride was hired and promoted precisely because he had such skills – and that these are now likely to be increasingly deployed, by him or others, in time to come.

And though, as Brown recognised, responsibility in this case has to be borne by the prime minister, it’s also clear that the strategising would not have taken place without the assumption of a part of the media being compliant with it, once it passed from the drawing board – or the email exchange – to execution. [emphasis added]

Or as Andrew Neill puts it:

“When you keep a kennel of attack dogs then I guess you can’t entirely claim ignorance or absence of responsibility when one of them bites several passers by.”

Rachel Sylvester in The Times notes that apart from anything else it hints at exhaustion at the heart of government:

In 1997, the Tories portrayed Mr Blair with demon eyes as they had run out of steam to govern. Smear campaigns may fill a vacuum but in the end – as Mr Brown will almost certainly discover – they suck those who use them into an inescapable and utterly destructive black hole.

In truth, Labour is crap at the attack stuff (check out Obnoxio and the Devil’s Kitchen for genuine Tory pros). They are much easier for Oppositions (joking publicly about Brown’s state of mental health is fair comment, privately planning a set of reprisals is not)…

Whatever the substance of this story, and however foolish Draper and McBride were to embark upon this counterattack, it is the press and most other people’s lack of information about what the emails contain that’s most perplexing about this story.

The English sociologist Frank Burton once argued that journalists adopt “strategies that are designed to minimise readers’ awareness of his own real areas of ignorance”. There is an awful lot of ignorance around this story and an awful lot being ascribed to in the absence of some pretty central facts. Witness this piece from Fergus Shanahan at the Sun who all but jails Tom Watson and throws away the key. The basis: the Labour Cabinet Office Minister was: 1 involved in a previous Brownite plot to unseat Blair; and 2, his name is mentioned in one of these ‘unseen’ emails.

Justin has a nice take on the utter banality of the whole business… And there is the inevitable Downfall parody.. But occasional Slugger contributor, Nick Anstead, as ever cuts to the quick of what this means for political parties and journalism in a wider context:

The mass media era was defined by narrow inputs (produced by a small number among an information elite – journalists and publishers, for example). It was because there were few of them that the role of the modern spin doctor developed in the first place. A dialogue could occur among a narrow group of people and information could be managed.

Now though, we live in the digital era and have to moved to a time of broad (and growing) inputs – in short, information cannot be managed in the same way by spin doctors when publishing is so easy. Secrets are far harder to keep. Look at wikileaks for just one example. This means a fundamental readjustment in the way parties and governments handle information, and the ending of the nineties consensus on how politics is done.

But Nick is only partly right. Brown’s downfall will come in part because he couldn’t tell a coherent story, never mind ‘spin’ one… In the absence of a consistent narrative of government, the Press has gone ‘feral’. It was Philip Gould who noted a central point in that nineties consensus, that if political parties don’t feed the voracious appetite of the press with lots of stories, they will simply ‘gobble you up’.

In this case, it was a blogger who cunningly tipped the media’s hand and disrupted its natural food chain… And another, unthinking one, who provided them the red meat… But it was the ennui of the political media that forced them into jumping (too far)…

Adds: And in the heel of the hunt, whoops; there goes Gordon’s G20 bounce… I wonder how that happened? Can’t shake the feeling that you/we were played like a fiddle ladies and gentlemen of the press…

  • Comrade Stalin

    Jesus. I hope this is what the underbelly of real politics is actually like.

  • joeCanuck

    Where can I buy a handbag? I want to join in. It sounds like jolly good fun.

  • ArchiePurple

    Out here in reality’s dismal zone
    Where spin and lies are a continuous drone,
    We hear the term, ‘special adviser’,
    And assume that they’re employed because, they are wiser than the Minister for whom they toil,
    But in truth they’re there to spin and spoil.
    They’re far from being advisory big-hitters,
    They’re generally no more than advisory bullshitters.

  • TK

    What’s new in what has happened? Absolutely nothing. This stuff has been going on for centuries in all systems and all parties. I am surprised that the Tories have gone as far as they have but what goes round comes round.

  • Frustrated Democrat

    Gordon Brown Prime Minister by Tom Bower…..

    ….. should be required reading for anyone who wants to comment on this escapade. It sets all anyone needs to know about how Brown operates, and raises questions about what he is now claiming.

  • So, any comment anywhere about the means how Guido got the emails in the first place?

    The UK is going to go from the frying pan into the fire with Cameron and his Toffs.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    El Gordo has been dead at the wheel for some time – like one of the old Soviet Poliburo he has been rolled out for state ocassions like the G20 and to make the odd speech but close examination would reveal absolutely no political life – just an empty shell with a sign hanging around his next which reads – “my run of good luck on the economy has ran out – please take pity on me at the polls”

  • Frustrated Democrat

    Ronald

    Seems may be have been from Whelan enemies in Unite, but no one will ever confirm.

    And by the way few Conservatives are ‘Toffs’; just as all Labour aren’t Toffs either, however quite a few are.

  • DC

    The modern day media causes more problems than the cause itself. Where the media tries to make the conviction worse than any legal sentence. Such as the sensationalising to the point of hysteria the news linked to the criminalising of social problems, be they young offenders, drug abuse, sex offenders, etc. The media likes to think it can put the victim at the heart of the justice system, but it should be justice at the heart of the justice system.

    Philip Gould’s analysis needs to be turned on its head. The media’s punishment rarely fits the crime. So when Jacqui Smith gets clobbered for paying for porno when Labour itself has criminalised so many social ‘problems’ and taken moral stances on many things, the delicious irony when her own husband deviates is brilliant.

    It highlights the ineffectual nature of taking simple moralistic public stances over what are very complex matters needing addressed. Where reasoned and rationalised debate are lost to party political interference. Another case in point is the medical advice over reclassifying ecstasy, when a particular expert takes a stance based on his experience, the outcome is shock and disgust. Cue the media. The MMR jab another one. The list is endless!

    For example, look at the Fritzl case where appropriate means were taken to suffocate any oxygen that could fuel information disclosure about the wider family. In Britain, such a case would be a nightmare for any family, in the case of Fritzl the children upstairs had their own lives flipped over when his double life was found out. In this case, the MSM’s ‘victim-centred’ reporting approach was never ever going to be suitable.

    Back to the post, me thinks number 10 got too involved in petty anti-Gweedo (Guido) tactics than in useful public policy strategy. Guido is a tangled knot who likes to take credit for things personally with his own blog, but as President Harry Truman once said “It’s amazing what you can achieve if you don’t care who gets the credit.”

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Frustrated Democrat,

    “And by the way few Conservatives are ‘Toffs’”

    How many old-etonians are there in the shadow cabinet?

    Part of the image problem for the Tories, which led to their previous fall from popularity, is that even the working-class-boys-made-good still put on the ridiculous accents to give the impression they were Toffs. By electing PoshBoyDavidCameron(PBDC) as leader they have perpetuated this negative image of a party who like to speak down to the electorate but with Labour in absolute retreat and disarray ‘talking funny’ will not be sufficent to hold them back – except of course in Scotland and Wales where ‘talking funny’ loses them bucketfulls of votes.

  • Albert Reynolds

    [i]Part of the image problem for the Tories, which led to their previous fall from popularity, is that even the working-class-boys-made-good still put on the ridiculous accents to give the impression they were Toffs.[/i]

    Who? Eric Pickles? William Hague? Er, no.

    All of ‘PBDC’s’ predecessors up until, and including, Thatcher went to state schools. The Labour party is crawling with toffs! Blair, Purnell, Harman, Mandelson etc etc etc

    The class war is over – get over it little man.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Albert Reynolds,

    so why did the working class Tories e.g. Hezza and Parkinson – put on the funny accents?

    I have no idea how many old-etonian there are – thats why I was asking. There is the whiff of the upper class twit about the shadow chancellor though he may well be from a sink estate and just doing the funny accent.

    I personally dont have a problem with posh types, in fact they are quite amusing and often decent chaps, but it doesnt play well with the British public and it seems suprising that given the Tories image problems they would put some one as overtly Posh as PoshBoyDavidCameron in the job.

    I know it may all seem jolly unfair to you but as the excellent comedy Blackadder illustrated the British appetite for posh behaviours may be confined now to entertainment.

  • alan56

    Cycle of politics. Labour have lost the plot. Reminds me of the demise of Major. Cameron should keep low profile right now. Let them do it by themselves

  • Albert Reynolds

    [i]so why did the working class Tories e.g. Hezza and Parkinson – put on the funny accents?[/i]

    Why live in the past? Your examples, therefore, do not advance or support your argument in any way. Blackadder lampooned attitudes that are firmly confined to the dustbin of history.

    [i]the shadow chancellor though he may well be from a sink estate and just doing the funny accent[/i]

    No he isn’t – he’s a complete and utter toff, part of the old Irish aristocracy actually. Doesn’t mean he won’t make a better Chancellor than (privately-educated) Darling though. He’s clever, bright and very articulate – he’ll make an excellent Chancellor.

    [i]I personally dont have a problem with posh types, in fact they are quite amusing and often decent chaps, but it doesnt play well with the British public and it seems suprising that given the Tories image problems they would put some one as overtly Posh as PoshBoyDavidCameron in the job[/i]

    I think the result of the Crewe by-election and the disgusting smear tactics that were used in the campaign by NuLab show up your argument what it actually is – complete nonsense, in the face of clear facts. Blair came off as much as a toff as Cameron does now and he didn’t do too badly did he? I’ll repeat it again: you’re living in the past if you actually think people still care about class in the UK.

  • willis

    Yep Mick

    I think you got Dolly spot on. He always wanted to be inside the loop, wheras Guido still makes a play to be a lone gun.

    We shall see how house-tamed he becomes when the Etonians get power.

    I may not have the gift of prophesy, but I would be surprised if the relationship between funny money and the Tories does not provide rich pickings to a well connected, nihilistic Guido of the far left.

    A suitable nom de guerre?

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Albo,

    “disgusting smear tactics”

    Self righteous nonsense – you only have to witness Tory sneering at fat-boy-two-jags to see “class-warfare” as you seem to want to refer to it to see it cuts both ways. Class is but one aspect of a complicated society which still plays a negative role in the fair division of resources and those who pedal the trappings of it should be teased mrecilessly until they get a grip on their over-priced knickers.

    The Tory party seems to attract a range of strange backward looking people from different social backgrounds who appear to yearn for an age which thankfully appears to have long passed – and that is surely a contributory reason that even in the middle of the worst recession in history they will still be unelectable in many areas of England and vitrually all of Scotland and Wales.

  • “(check out Obnoxio and the Devil’s Kitchen for genuine Tory pros)”

    You are very kind, Mick, but both Obnoxio and I are Libertarian Party members: we are most emphatically not feckin’ Tories.

    DK

  • Albert Reynolds

    At last! He grasps the point! (i.e. that this shite cuts both ways – the toffs and champagne socialists). It took you a while but now you’ve got it by gum!

    [i]and that is surely a contributory reason that even in the middle of the worst recession in history they will still be unelectable in many areas of England and vitrually all of Scotland and Wales.[/i]

    Whereas NuLab are making significant inroads in Surrey, Essex, Cheshire etc. etc. Again! This shit cuts both ways, comrade.

    My point is that “class warfare” is now DEAD. That’s right, it’s DEAD. The whole country laughed and mocked Prezza for a whole decade (and still largely does), it wasn’t just limited to a bunch of toffee-nosed Etonians.

    Chill out, comrade.

  • Mick

    DK,

    That would be the British Right’s equivalent of the Co-op Party, without the debilitating compromise of 1927. Yet (it’s early days Chris ;-))!

    In truth Labour are floundering: one, because they have been ‘disrupted’ by a sharper and better organised opposition; and two, they’ve been disrupted because they have expended far too much effort on their own internal troubles and way too much belief in the self evidence of their own virtue.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Albo,

    just because some over privileged bufoon has convinced you, for reasons of political correctness, that it wouldnt be cricket to laugh at at some other over privileged bufoon simply because he is an over privilege bufoon doesnt mean that we will all have to follow the Tory party line on that one.

    It’s a tough old political world out there and we do need our light relief and as the Tory party is a source of so much fun then telling people they are not allowed to laugh at them because it is ‘class warfare’ or some other such crazy jibber jabber is about as sensible as the Tories joining up with the deeply sectarian Ulster Unionist party and telling us they are doing so to end tribal politics in Norn Iron.

  • Albert Reynolds

    Sammy, you have well and truly lost the argument. I really am lost. You continue to blurt out unrelated musings to the discussion at hand from way out of left-field.

    You are completely obsessed with the concept of “class warfare”. Let go. It’s over!

  • Jimmy Sands

    “Go to Guido’s site”

    Just make sure to shower afterwards.

  • Dewi

    It’s not the dirt that I find depressing – it’s a dirty game – but it’s the terrible lack of class.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Albo,

    So by your own words you are lost and cant follow what is going on – well, I could have told you that a while back – so let me keep it simple for you.

    Politics is a very dirty game – as this thread indicates – and if Tories attract what appear to the public to be over privileged buffoons or attract under privileged buffoons who pretend to be over privileged buffoons then people will rightly laugh at them.

    I have no doubt PBDC is painfully aware of this reality.

  • Jonty Monty

    The UK looks to be in terminal decline. Ripping itself apart from the inside.

  • Mick Fealty

    Sammy,

    Einstein said:

    “Any fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction.”

    But he also said:

    “Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler”.

    Any chance of giving us a break from the unnecessarily crude agit prop routine?

  • Rory Carr

    A vox pop in my local last night has me convinced that the Great British Public (or at least that part represented by a bunch of gals and geezers in a Tottenham pub) are mostly unaware of any significance in this spat and insofar as some are aware, couldn’t really care less.

    Bloggers really do have an over-inflated sense of their own importance in the world and the daily reinforcement of that false insight is provided every day by for the most part a fairly small and fairly constant group of readers, while the rest of the world blithely goes about its business in blissful ignorance of their very existence.

    But then, even if bloggers were to have a much wider audience what difference would it make if the story itself, like this one, is really of so little interest to most people? After all even if my test group had not picked this up from bloggers’ sites they could hardly miss the bombardment from the daily press and from radio and televeision news bulletins (although it has become increasingly easy to watch television all day long without encountering any news whatsoever by selecting the appropriate channels), yet despite this the significance passes over their heads. Or more accurately, the story fails to take on any significance because they cannot possibly see what impact it can have upon their lives and as a piece of tittle-tattle it is useless as the actors in this little drama are all so unknown, unglamourous and not in the least worthy of note.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Roy

    I agree the public could not give a flying feck about this and the feigned outrage by the Tories is really quite amusing – we are talking about feckers (Labour and Tory) who would sell their Grannies to get elected and people who would rent their Grannie’s house whilst claiming for it on expenses as their place of work. The Tories are no doubt secretly delighted by this story as is simply keeps the damaged goods that El Gordo has become under pressure.

    From a political point of view if it turns out that El Gordo has been telling fibs (wouldnt it be great if he was editing the emails) then he would be on his bike – but I’m sure the Tories do not actually want that as the alternatives will be more formidable.

    Hopefully the Labour party will take one hell of a thrashing at the Euro polls and El Gordo may prematurely take to his bicycle and we might at least have a fight on our hands at the next general election.

  • Albert Reynolds

    Sammy

    Dogs learn quicker than you. Go away, thoroughly analyse the Crewe by-election held last year. Then come back to me and, with a straight face, tell me class warfare still exists in the UK.

    People have moved on, there are more important things to worry about. Why you are incapable of doing the same, only you know.

    End.

  • Frustrated Democrat

    There is a difference between putting out comment in press releases or up on posters and lying to the media without attribution.

    E.g. Although ‘two jags’ was a press invention it was an accurate comment. The ‘demon eyes’ was on a Conservative poster, not hiding behind anything.

    It is unattributable lies that are obnoxious.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Albo,

    …and talking of dogs – stop chasing your own tail – you are the only one who mentioned class warfare…

    Have a read of what the Tories themselves think – just because you don’t agree with something doesn’t just make it go away. ..

    http://scotlandonsunday.scotsman.com/conservativeleader/Tory-toff-image-worse-than.3347692.jp

    It puts me in mind of the boy Hague and his 14 pints, man-of-the-people-and-all-that. Lol

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/871543.stm

  • Albert Reynolds

    [i] you are the only one who mentioned class warfare…[/i]

    Hmmm. I don’t think so.

    [i]Lol[/i]

    Indeed

  • Albert Reynolds

    P.S. Dredging up an article that’s over 2 years out of date? Weak. Again: see Crewe and Nantwich by-election.

    [i]Any chance of giving us a break from the unnecessarily crude agit prop routine?[/i]

    He’s incapable of doing so. Unhealthy obsessions with 19th century class politics. I’ll leave you to have the final word, comrade

  • Dev

    Albert Reynolds,

    I’d say the reason why the Toff attacks didn’t work in Crewe & Nantwich were 1. they were extremely ham-fisted & obvious, & more importantly 2. the subject of the attack (Edward Timpson) wasn’t your average toff, his parents had a load of foster children, he practiced family law & did charity work, not quite the same as say Jabcob Rees Mogg (a Tory PPC) who charmingly refers to people who didn’t go to Oxbridge as ‘potted plants’ & against whom, I suspect, Tory toff attacks might be a bit more effective.

    Now, while the Tory shadow cabinet does have the likes of Pickles & Hague, it also has quite a few old Etonians & whether you like it or not that will be an issue in for some people in some parts of the country. Labour will seek to exploit that (hopefully with a little bit more art & awareness of context than in Crewe), whether that constitutes a ‘class war’ or not is another matter.

  • Albert Reynolds

    Dev, I’d label an 18% swing as more than just “Toff attacks” not working – there was something more fundamental at work here: a real hatred of New Labour (of course, this was compunded by traditional mid-term blues).

    Indeed, the thought of old Etonians running the country again won’t go down very well in Liverpool, Manchester, the north-east of England etc., but I honestly don’t think the majority of people in marginal constituencies care enough about this in the current climate. I believe that the general revulsion out there now felt and directed towards NuLab will heavily outweigh the (legitimate) nervousness at having the landed gentry once again calling the shots in Whitehall (not that the civil service has ever been anything different). That will certainly be the case in Redditch, anyways.

  • Frustrated Democrat

    Lots of chips on shoulders here, grow up and get over it, you are what you believe yourself to be.

    If that is inferior so be it.

    If it is superior, then you really are inferior.

    If is the same you are on the right tracks.

  • willis

    Don’t forget that the US Presidential Election 2008 was full of this guff.

    Joe the plumber

    Sarah (betcha) Palin

    Hillary the redneck.

    It is an entirely acceptable political tactic to present your opponent as being out of touch with ordinary people. It worked spectacularly for John Major against Douglas Hurd and has been a debased currency ever since.