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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire (With apologies to William Blake), 15 Mar. 2014
This review is from: Power Trip: A Decade of Policy, Plots and Spin (Hardcover)
Reading Damien McBride's 'Power Trip' reminds me of the Alan Jay Lerner song, '"How Could You Believe Me When I Said I Love You When You Know I've Been a Liar All My Life?". The content and tone of McBride's book is one of selective memory and self-serving apologies which smack of insincerity and hypocrisy. For him, Gordon Brown, a son of the manse with a foul mouth, though not as foul as McBride himself, was a hero let down by inadequate colleagues. That Brown had no fundamental grasp of the economic reality which led to the crisis of 2008 appears to escape his myopic view of a failed Chancellor who became a failed Prime Minister. He blames others, Alistair Darling, for example, for the failure of Brown to save the world. Ed Balls, joint architect of the deficit disaster, comes up smelling of roses although this is only as a result of the manure spread by McBride's poisonous pen.

McBride was the epitome of the corruption at the heart of the British political system, corruption which expanded under Alistair Campbell and McBride. It's ironic that the latter, even when admitting some errors, shifts responsibility by saying others were worse. Yet McBride does not appreciate that providing special briefings for the political editor of GMTV, who later became a Labour MP, was a form of political corruption in an open society. So too was his strategy of lying-without-lying and while he claims Brown did not know what he was up to it's obvious from his reference to the 'unspoken word' between them that Brown closed his eyes to the obvious. Brown was a weak leader and employing McBride was a sign of his weakness, the more so since there were several opportunities to sack him which Brown botched. McBride was not a journalist, his genuine communication skills were poor and his appointment political. He was unable to devise a clear media strategy for Brown. McBride was Brown's servant, no-one else mattered to him. When the servant erred he was sacked but not before contributing to the rise of political cynicism amongst the public..

Although McBride claims in retrospect to have been appalled by his behaviour he blames 'the corrosive nature of our political system, which - over thirteen years - slowly ate away my principles, scruples and judgement...'. One is obliged to ask 'What principles, what scruples and what judgement?' all of which appear to have been lacking from the outset. Hugh Dalton resigned when he inadvertently leaked a budget story whereas McBride wallowed in his party political actions. Even when he made a mess of the leaking, was found out and MPs demanded an explanation, he boasts, 'They didn't get one'. Deception was an integral part of McBride's method of working. What is apparent from the book is that the Brownites spent more time fighting the Blairites than governing the country. We know from other sources that Brown coveted Blair's job and Blair despised Brown. 'Tony's mob' claimed Brown would destroy Blair's heritage whereas McBride was claiming Blair was hanging on to the trappings of power but was a lame duck leader who had lost the public's trust. Both men put their own personal ambitions ahead of the country's interest with Blair joining the illegal war in Iraq and Brown's failing to stop it by denying the necessary finance. Clinging to office was more important for Brown and disastrous for the country.

In McBride's skewed view the Blair-Brown wars were good for the country because it knocked all other political stories off the front page. Once Blair had gone and Brown fluffed an opportunity to go to the country in 2007, the story became the hapless Brown and his poisonous spin doctor McBride. In 2009 the latter came into his own in the 'smeargate' scandal in which McBride was caught out spreading false rumours about a number of Tory politicians including David Cameron, George Osborne and their wives and MP Nadine Dorries. McBride's claim is that many of his stories, although untrue, were from journalists who had sourced them from alleged friends of the people concerned but it simply doesn't wash. McBride was a liar who spread lies to damage people. His obnoxious actions were consistent with his philosophy which meant he had lost track 'of what the job or working for Gordon was all about'. He misses the point that it was the way in which he worked for Brown which was fundamentally flawed. CAFOD understood this when they refused to accept monies from the sale of the book.

Even after McBride had been identified as a liar amongst leading Labour figures no-one had the guts to demand his resignation, least of all Gordon Brown. For McBride it was never Gordon Brown's fault, only the fault of those around him, especially if they disagreed with McBride. McBride blames every Blairite for Brown's failures. His attack on Ivan Lewis was spiteful and that on Harriet Harman poisonous. He admits smearing Major and Lamont over Black Wednesday even though he was a neutral civil servant at the time. The book is confirmation that the Labour Party was not fit to govern. The book lacks morality, replacing it with rationalisation and self-justification, notwithstanding his alleged 'repentance'. McBride confirms that government by spin doctor and special advisers has damaged representative government and should be ended. McBride is coy about his childhood and the absence of photographs of his time at the top is puzzling.

Why five stars? So people can be educated into the corrupt nature of British politics and come to informed decisions rather than relying on their gut instinct that all politicians are liars and in it for themselves. McBride, who excuses himself on the grounds that he was not as bad as some others, (Campbell springs to mind), lacked any moral compass and should be treated as a pariah in any civilised society. Borrow it from the library and return quickly.
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