UnNews:McBride Affair - Brown to have a Smear Test

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McBride Affair - Brown to have a Smear Test

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14 April 2009

London, UK -- British Prime Minister Gordon "Bennett" Brown has tried to show that he has no control over the damaging McBride Affair controversy and is calling for tighter rules to ensure that this remains the case.

In a letter to the head of the civil service, Sir Gus O'Donnell, Mr Brown said the controversy sparked by a senior aide's slurs against several high-profile Tories was "a personal matter between me and Mr McBride which had nothing to do with the office of the Prime Minister".

He said that in future special advisers should have to sign an agreement that keeping the Prime Minister informed of their activities would lead to instant dismissal.

Mr Brown has written personally to all of those slurred – including Tory leader David Cameron – explaining that he never has any idea what his staff are up to and therefore cannot be held accountable for their actions. "It has always been unofficial Downing Street policy for advisers to desist from keeping the Prime Minister informed of their schemes," he wrote. "I had no idea what Daniel McBride was doing on this or any other occasion. This is what we have all come to expect, and therefore I see no need to apologise for his actions. I just need to get the rules changed to make keeping me out if it official policy."

A Tory MP caught up in the affair told Sky News that there is at the heart of Number 10 "an insidious tendency for aides to keep ministers informed". However, he added, "I don't believe that Downing Street aides have always stuck rigidly to policy, so I'm pleased that Gordon Brown is going to fire any aide who tries to communicate with him in future."

Nadine Dorries was one of several Conservatives about whom Damian McBride spread scurrilous gossip.

McBride resigned when it became apparent that Gordon Brown might have known in advance about a smear campaign against senior figures in the Conservative Party. In his letter of resignation, he put, "I have to admit that I have on occasion had conversations with Gordon Brown, but I do not wish to give the impression that he was behind this campaign of informing the public about what the Conservatives are up to."

The Tories have called for Mr Brown to hold an inquiry into the affair, and to ensure that none of the other 20 or so special advisers in Downing Street should ever again have the opportunity to tell the Prime Minister what they are doing whilst inside Number 10.

But Ms Dorries, MP for Mid-Bedfordshire, says she believes the Prime Minister should have a re-think and apologise. She is also considering legal action.

She told Sky News: "What we have at the heart of Downing Street is a well-managed team of advisers who know exactly what they are doing. This represents an unacceptable risk for the Prime Minister and is very unfair. We want to ensure that a similar debacle couldn’t occur when the Conservatives are in power."

"Damian McBride reported directly to the Prime Minister and took his instructions from the Prime Minister. An employee is ultimately responsible for keeping his boss out of trouble by keping him in the dark.

"Downing Street is a small house - it's not a massive office block. These people work in one office at the heart of Downing Street and shouldn't be allowed to mingle with the Prime Minister and his family. That office should also be off-limits for the Prime Minister. All this should be easy to achieve."

Ms Dorries added: "I don't think it's right or proper that at the heart of Downing Street we have key advisers, top ministerial aides, legitimately working on how they can destroy the reputations and careers of others and then risking doing just that very thing by telling Gordon Brown what they are working on."

However, Health Secretary Alan Johnson - while condemning the emails - insisted that Mr Brown should apologise for giving the impression that he was in touch when he clearly isn't.

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