Magazine article The Spectator

A Bloggers Notebook

Magazine article The Spectator

A Bloggers Notebook

Article excerpt

Having sat patiently on a barrel of digital dynamite for months - the emails from Gordon Brown's chief spin doctor Damian McBride to Mandelson's protégé Derek Draper, suggesting Tory smear stories - I light the fuse on Andrew Neil's BBC Daily Politics show. In an unedifying squabble, I succeed in stitching up the once again infamous Draper on live TV, forcing him to deny that he takes briefings from McBride. Viewers at home may be baffled as to why I am determined to talk about Draper's relationship with McBride.

They may also be bemused by my unflattering Berkeley University T-shirt. The reason for this is to wind up Draper even more:

Berkeley featured on his CV, despite him not graduating from that institution. After the show I publicise on my blog a Freedom of Information request for emails between McBride and Draper.

Chris Hope is a Telegraph journalist I have worked with in the past: he took the credit for our investigation into the Smith Institute that resulted in Gordon Brown's favourite think-tank getting restructured by the Charity Commission. I meet Chris in El Vino's promising another scoop, NonDisclosure Agreement in hand. Bloody Mary for me, milky coffee for him. He is stunned.

'Are they genuine?' he asks, five times. He makes notes. The Bloody Mary emboldens me. A figure of £20,000 is discussed. On a whim I text Damian McBride, just for the hell of it: 'So the choice is (a) lie (b) deny (c) email a friend. Too late to press delete and (c) got you in the hole in the first place.

Guido.' Later I call a contact at the News of the World. He seems interested. He calls back. They are very interested. When can I come over to Wapping? I call the Sunday Times ? might as well pay them a visit too, if I am going to be in Wapping. They email back the Non-Disclosure Agreement. I send them a descriptive note. They are keen too. A few minutes later my News of the World contact's boss calls and starts ranting at me - what the hell am I doing negotiating with the Sunday Times as well? So much for the NDA.

The sense grows within me that this is going to be big. I decide to discuss it with my wife, a cautious legal mind with a lot of experience in preventing her husband from charging towards the sound of gunfire. She is extremely alarmed when I explain the situation, insists that I speak with counsel first. I get two opinions. Both agree that I will have a strong public interest defence if the dark forces of Downing Street decide to give me the Damian Green treatment - except if I do it for private gain. Forget making money.

Damn. Oh well, this is a noble mission. Partly out of a sense of theatre and partly for the purposes of psychological warfare, I blog a picture of Damian McBride with a sniper's target on him. My readers are thrilled.

We are going big-game hunting again! The lobby pack are mildly curious.

The News of the World can t believe their luck when I tell them they can have the story for nothing, though they are less impressed when I say and so will the Sunday Times . My calculation is that the story is best placed in the two largest-circulation Sunday papers because it will be hard for Downing Street to bully or bribe them both. The visit to Wapping on Friday morning is decisive.

The News of the World political team makes an instant judgment: McBride is finished. …

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