Sunday, April 12, 2009


Michael White The Guardian Dec 4, 2007

G2: Shortcuts: Meet 'McPoison' - the prime minister's new spin meister

Thanks to Alastair Campbell and Charlie Whelan, not to mention Malcolm Tucker's foul-mouthed performance in The Thick of It, many voters have the impression that political spin doctors are ferocious bullies who whip reporters into line. So why have we heard so little of Gordon Brown's new man?

Lacking Campbell's fatal fondness for the limelight, Damian McBride has managed to keep a sensibly low profile since moving with the former chancellor to run the political side of Brown's press operation. Standup comics could not get a gag out of mentioning his name. Not yet.

But in chalk-and-cheese tandem with the austere Mike Ellam (the official No 10 spokesman rather than another party appointee) the boisterous McBride has an unenviable task. Even in good times, running Brown's PR is a job from hell.

The lack of publicity is not to say McBride is not interesting, and not for nothing is he called McPoison by some admirers. When Anthony Browne left the Times staff to run the Tory thinktank Policy Exchange, he used his leaving party to settle a score with McBride. He read out a couple of abusive text messages that arose from a Times investigation into how much Brown knew of the effect his 1997 tax changes would have on pensions. "I just wish for once you'd try to get past your cynical, Tory halfwit Harold Lloyd shtick to try to be a genuine journalist," was one choice phrase. (Browne wears what Ernie Wise used to call "cruel glasses" - the Harold Lloyd kind.)

Yet he is nowhere near as rough as his predecessor at No 11, Whelan, from whom the phrase "It's bollocks" often meant "It's true". An avid Arsenal fan, red-cheeked and quick to temper when it suits, McBride, 32, could probably give Charlie the thumping he often deserved. By comparison, he is a diplomat, charming when so inclined, as befits a former head of VAT strategy at the Treasury, the post he held until he acquired a taste for party politics in the press office. What's more, Brown is not an easy product to market. The early "no more spin" message was bad spin. But all in all, "McPoison" does well.

Derek Draper. Mail On Sunday, Oct 28

"Tonight we've been on a rare night out to the cool new London club Shoreditch House. We were having a drink with Gordon Browns Press supremo Damian McBride. He has all the skill of Peter Mandelson and Alastair Campbell without the baggage.

Obviously we talked about whether there would be an early Election but Damian was giving nothing away. Amazingly, like everyone else he seemed more interested in Strictly. Gordon loves it, he confided. He says its real family entertainment, perfect Saturday-night TV. But will the new PM be voting for Kate?

Its a secret ballot I presume, shot back Damian with a smile.

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