Damien McBride’s resignation, from the position of Strategy Director in Downing Street was reluctantly accepted by Gordon Brown, who then tried to head off media criticism by rather bizarrely asking the Cabinet Secretary to prepare a statement on guidelines for political advisers, and how they are suppose to behave.
McBride’s sins appear to be the preparation of a salacious media campaign making personal attacks on Tory spokespersons as a way, apparently, of exciting interest in Labour’s alternatives in the run up to the next General Election.
For someone with a title of Director of Strategy, which sounds very grand and serious, I am appalled to think what is going through his mind and what kind of contact his team has with ordinary, if rather disillusioned Labour voters, that such a tactic should be one that is even considered.
There was a time when political advisers first came into vogue in the 1970s when Wilson, and then Callaghan, were concerned about the radicalism of people such as Tony Banks, Stuart Holland and Frances Morrell, and the possible influence they might be having on ministers.
The civil servants were also suspicious of the role played by political advisers who often acted as a lightening rod for opinions in the wider Labour movement, to get past the blank wall façade of the civil service, and to be able to help ministers produce radical policies.
New Labour put a stop to that whole approach and instead they have used political advisers as gatekeepers to ministers. To the chagrin of many senior civil servants, some advisers seem to see their role as dissing the opposition without any regard to the facts or the integrity of the stories.
What this sad story has revealed is the ephemeral world of the blogosphere, removed from the reality of most people’s existence, where fantasy becomes fact and is then deemed to be a computer screen reality.
If we are to win the next General Election it will be by demonstrating that public money poured into the banks is actually going to result in the banks being run in the public interest, not merely bailing out a system that is already failed.
We will not punish postal workers for having the temerity to demand we stick to our previous election pledges of maintaining a fully publicly owned and accountable postal system.
McBride’s departure ought to herald a serious engagement with these issues and an understanding that there is a world beyond the computer obsessive and the blogosphere, where loyal labour voters are desperately worried about their jobs, future public spending patterns, and the lies and hypocrisy that took us into the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It’s time for a reality check, and understanding of what the Labour traditional values, and their enduring appeal actually are.
Jeremy Corbyn is the Labour MP for Islington North