Friday, March 27, 2009

An Email to Damian McBride


This is a copy of an email I have just sent to Damian McBride, the Prime Minister's Head of Strategy. On the Daily Politics yesterday, Guido Fawkes made an allegation that McBride had given Derek Draper his marching orders on how to trash my reputation as a blogger, and in particular how he should smear me over the Carol Thatcher golliwog remarks. This wasn't the first time I had heard the allegation made. Indeed, the last time, I was told that Tom Watson was in on it too. This would not be a surprise as they both sit in the same office, and they act as the PM's political hit squad.

I intend now to submit an FOI on this subject as I regard it as a hugely serious breach of McBride's role as a civil servant - paid for by the taxpayer, if indeed it is true. Several people have warned me off doing this. "Let it lie," they say. One lobby correspondent advised me: "Don't get on the wrong side of McBride".

I'm afraid they 'misunderestimate' me.

But I will say this. I hope Guido's allegations are wrong and that Damian McBride can truthfully tell me that he gave no such advice to Draper either by email or verbally. But if these emails do exist, they will come to light through an FOI request. Someone else said to me that they will just delete the emails, if they exist. I reminded that person that to do so would constitute a criminal offence. It's the kind of thing a certain Richard Nixon got into rather a lot of trouble for.

UPDATE: Guido has submitted an FOI request. In the absence of a reply from DM, I have followed suit...

Dear Damian,
This is a Subject Access Request made under the provisions of the Data Protection Act (1998).
Please provide me with copies of all emails, letters or other documents referring to either myself or my publication, “Iain Dale’s Diary”. In particular, but not exclusively, the analysis provided by you to Derek Draper and LabourList.org on the afternoon of Friday 13, February 2009.
I have copied this to the Cabinet Office Freedom of Information Unit. If you require payment of a fee please advise by return.
I should remind you that it would be a criminal offence to destroy the information requested. Please confirm receipt of this email.
Kind regards

99 comments:

Letters From A Tory said...

I hope that this settles the matter, as Guido's remarks were certainly concerning if there is even a shred of truth in them.

beaubodor said...

As far as I understand it from The Daily Politics, Guido was going to publish the briefing paper.

By all means proceed with the FOI request but why not just ask Paul for a copy so you can have sight of it much earlier than the FOI process will allow.

beaubodor said...

or alternatively, ask Guido to publish it as he stated he was going to do.
It's only one phone call/email.

Half The Story said...

Iain, you also need to submit a request under the data protection act for all information held on paper or digital formats that refer or relate to you.

This includes emails, memos, files, letters and so on.

How to do it is here:

http://tinyurl.com/39cg35

Oliver Drew said...

I think it is a good idea.

Have to say, I didn't realise that McBride was a civil servant - I thought he was part of the Labour Party hit-squad.

That I can't tell the different is kind of concerning.

@beaubodor - that is an idea, but then Guido might have to publish his source too, which would not be a good idea (from either Guido's or the source's perspective!!).

Plato said...

I'd be very surprised if anyone in the Cabinet Office FOI team would allow themselves to be compromised by deleting email records.

These aren't just held on someone's desktop - they will all be logged on a seperate server I would imagine.

Certainly that's what the plod do.

Just because it's not in Outlook now doesn't mean it never existed.

Good move Iain. So that's 20 days and counting...

And ooh eer don't get in Damian's bad books. He will be looking for another job shortly (or even more shortly).

Richard Abbot said...

Now this IS worthy of you Iain. A serious and sober response to the allegations. You'll need much patience and determination. Who wants to bet the info is released just after the next general election result is announced?

Plato said...

Half the Story - good point re Data Protection.

There are few more anally retentive rule sticklers that this lot.

And very good it is too.

Jonathan Cook said...

McBride would have to have been incredibly stupid to send e-mails to Draper from his government account.

If he sent an e-mail in his own personal time from his own personal e-mail, that would be very bad form, but would that breach any rules?

Matt said...

deleting it from outlook still leaves it in exchange so a search would still find it - don't believe thwy'd be that stupid

W12 said...

Interesting that Guido has still not published this alleged letter which he said he would.

Could it be because it doesnt exist?

someday said...

can do FOI requests online here: http://www.whatdotheyknow.com

Tim said...

So your evidence here is that you're asking for evidence? And you imply it is likely to be disappeared based on what 'someone' said to you and/or lessons learned from a very different party/administration party of a different country from a wholly different era? WTF?

What happened to the evidence that Paul Staines claimed (on national television) he would publish yesterday?

He either has it (as he claims to) or he doesn't. Have you asked Paul Staines for that (and implied that he might be less than honest about it in response)?

If not, why not, and if so, let's see the evidence.

Oliver Drew said...

Oh Tim - what is your problem now?

There has been an allegation made, and Iain is checking to see if those allegations are true or not - what is wrong with that?

He is doing precisley what you wanted him to do this morning - find evidence to back up a claim (though he is not the one making the claim, Guido did).

Vienna Woods said...

I am becoming concerned about several "going to publish" statements from Guido recently. The "Draper Qualifications" thing has been suddenly stopped without reason and many people on his blog have been asking for the further evidence he claimed.

If these cases are both without foundation then he could find himself on the ropes!

Conand said...

Alternatively we could have a trial of Draper and McBride in the 'court of public opinion'.
At the point where the project creates a system wherein Ministers can deliberately undermine the rule of law and denounce people; all sorts of opportunities arise.

Phil C said...

Iain, from memory I think the Civil Service guidelines on FOI state that all requests to a Government organisation should be treated as an FOI request. So it is sufficient to write to McBride at his work address and request the information; the clock starts ticking immediately. You don't need to know who to write to as such.

The problem with FOI requests is the difficulty of wording the request, if you get it wrong they can pretend you don't know what you mean. So backing it up with a request under the Data Protection Act is a very good idea, as you can ask for everything they have on you.

Tim said...

Oliver Drew: Thanks for the patronising intervention.

My problem is that this stinks of a stunt designed to implicate Downing Street, when all Iain has to do is ask Paul Staines for the evidence he claims to have.

And if Paul can't produce that (he failed spectacularly to deliver it as promised) what possible reason does Iain have to place this level of trust in the allegation?

(Oh, and if it's because he trusts Paul wouldnt lie because he's a mate or right-wingers don't lie like left-wingers or some such nonsense, then let's hear him say that.)

Unsworth said...

"and that Damian McBride can truthfully tell me ...."

Wild optimism there.

McBride?

Truthfully?

How would anyone know?

Plato said...

Tim - you're great at exposing the likes of Jenvey or running down newspaper editors who stray right over the line.

I'd much rather read about that than this.

Unsworth said...

@ Tim

Don't be a complete arse all your life. Take a day off.

Read Iain's comments. He says "This wasn't the first time I had heard the allegation made. Indeed, the last time, I was told that Tom Watson was in on it too.", so there were other sources, other occasions.

Why not go straight to the horse's mouth - or, in McBride's case, the other end of the horse's alimentary tract?

Logic?

PhilC said...

I thought the definition of marching orders was that it was asking someone to leave?
A cliche - and wrongly used - truly an heir to Orwell.

Tim said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tim said...

that Iain claims he is worried McBride will *delete* rather than hand over

Plato said...

*attaches hosepipe to exhaust*

*turns on ignition*

*sends final text message*

*sldkjfasldgkja;sgl*

David Boothroyd said...

I have a problem with this whole situation, and that problem is this: There is absolutely no indication that Paul Staines has any real evidence to back up his claim about Damian McBride.

It is the easiest and cheapest form of sensationalism to make a striking but imprecise claim about malpractice in high office, and then to demand that those involved prove their innocence.

Unless and until Paul Staines produces something definite which explains why he made his claim, there's no reason to assume there is anything behind it at all other than a smear. Still, good luck using Labour's Freedom of Information Act.

Iain Dale said...

I just deleted a comment from Tim Ireland as it contained the very kind of insults he complains that are made about him. if he wants to make allegations relating to my business he can do it on his own blog.

So far today, Ireland has left around 30 comments on this blog. Make of that what you will.

Man in a Shed said...

No prisoners Iain.

John said...

But if these emails do exist, they will come to light through an FOI request. Someone else said to me that they will just delete the emails, if they exist. I reminded that person that to do so would constitute a criminal offence. It's the kind of thing a certain Richard Nixon got into rather a lot of trouble for.

I would echo the sentiments of those who advised you against this. It's a shame that you have followed through with it IMHO :(

I would be very surprised if any such evidence still exists. I have no doubt that it once did btw, but I expect that it's long since buried.

A criminal offense that certainly would be, but in order to prosecute for it you'd need to prove the e-mails existed in the first place, and around and around we go....

Some things are unprovable open secrets. This is one of them.

You'll get no joy following this through.

Oldrightie said...

Don't get on the wrong side of McBride".

-----------------
That disgraceful comment highlights which is the real nasty party?

Plato said...

Oh Mr Boothroyd - what took you so long.

And Labour's FOI Act - hohoho - that they routinely use to avoid anything that doesn't suit them.

The Info Commissioner isn't exactly their greatest fan.

Tim said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mr. Mxyzptlk said...

Love it there goes old Iain Dale Don Quixote like on his trusty 'Rocinante' tilting at windmills".

with Sancho Panza 'Guido Fawkes'(The physical resemblance between Guido and Sancho is amazing) stumbling along behind him.

Oh Iain such tragic comedy i really must watch you make an ass of yourself..

(Iain is probably a bit to fat for to play a good Don Quixote)

Iain Dale said...

Ireland just reposted the same comment, which I have again deleted. Clearly he is trying to provoke another ban. Which if he reposts that comment again, I will impose. He has been warned.

Tim said...

If you are reckless or stupid enough to publish multiple editions (what was it? 5 or 6 editions?) of a political magazine without once thinking to fill out the PCC paperwork, you are by definition, a rogue publisher. Not an insult, but a reality.

Tim said...

No way you can ban me for that, but I know you'll come up withn some excuse before deleting the evidence.

Iain Dale said...

I can indeed ban you for that, and believe me I will if you post it again. I quote from my publicly available Rules...

"Persistent abuse of me, the host of this blog by way of spurious allegations or name-calling is liable to result in a ban, either for a period of time or permanently. You may disagree with me, but there is a limit to my patience if my hospitality is abused."

On your point about the PCC it is a voluntary code, not mandatory. If it was mandatory, you might have a point. But as per usual, you try to smear me. It stops. Here. or go and do it on your own blog.

Tim said...

How is this name-calling?

Publishers are either in line with the PCC code of conduct or they are not. For a long time you weren't, but - more tellingly - you launched your magazine and carried on for months without even thinking for a moment that this was something that even applied to you!

And why not just ask Paul Staines for the evidence?

Cato said...

It strikes me that Tim is the person who needs to STFU.

To come onto someone's blog and use such a phrase to the host is the absolute nadir of Hoonishness.

Tim said...

Ah, but unlike Iain who is claiming to be the victim of a Downing Street conspiracy, I have evidence of what I claim.

Iain Dale said...

It's name calling when you use the words you used in the two comments I have deleted. As you well know.

Tim said...

Let me clear on this: you regard my description of you as a R______ P_______ to be an insult and/or 'name calling'?

If so, I'll happily accept your position in the interim so we can get on with things and you can tell us all why you're not simply asking Paul Staines for evidence he claims to have?

Shamik said...

Tim, who funds you?

Iain Dale said...

You know perfectly well there was another word in those posts too. Put together they were designed to insult and damage my reputation.

Tim said...

Shamik: Iain initially made a secret of Ashcroft's involvement, which raised valid suspicions. You have no cause to raise similar suspicions about me, but thanks for playing.

Iain: So I am allowed to describe you as a rogue publisher? Good. I'll have to dig out my original comment to see what else was there to find out what you're on about. Back on a mo.

Conand said...

Iain, I think in this guy Tim 'doth protest too much, methinks'
He appears to be a very unpleasant person.

The Grim Reaper said...

Iain Dale said "So far today, [Tim] Ireland has left around 30 comments on this blog. Make of that what you will."

He fancies you. My advice - emigrate.

Plato said...

*bet Draperlist wishes they got this much traffic*

wv mandle [son]

Iain Dale said...

Tim, another smear. I never made any secret of Michael Ashcroft's investment, as you well know. This stops right here. I am not having you try to hijack this thread. Go and rant about me on your own blog.

Tim said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tim said...

"I never made any secret of Michael Ashcroft's investment, as you well know."

Yes, you did. At one stage you begged a reporter to keep it secret, at leats until you could announce it in your own special way

Shamik said...

Tim, you still haven't answered my question...

Tim said...

On what grounds do you ask the question? What possible sign have I given at any time in 7+ years of blogging that I would ever take money secretly from anyone?

Iain Dale said...

Tim, You have now exhausted my patience by throwing allegations around you know nothing about.

It stops here. If you wish to post about the substance of this thread - ie McBride, feel free to do so but I am disallowing anything else. I have wasted enough time on you today.

Plato said...

Guido has just posted this Dear Damian

Tim said...

So you're not going to tell us why you're not using the evidence that Paul Staines claims to have and you've called an end to our conversation so you don't have to face that or anything else.

That's twice today you've failed to put up and then failed to shut up.

There's a word for that.

Shamik said...

Tim, you seem to have no qualms about slinging mud at others, on the flimsiest of evidence.

As it is I've not made any kind of allegation or insinuation against you. If your blog is your personal hobby and you've not received a single penny from writing it, just say so...

Tim said...

And I've done nothing but try to get back to that point many times.

It boggles the mind that you would pretend the opposite.

joshi88 said...

Iain, why no word on Pickles last night? what do you think of him? why did he crash so badly? is he good enough?

Tim said...

Shamik: I have plenty of evidence. I'll show it to you if Iain will let me. You, on the other hand, have nothing, and you never will. There's nothing to find.

JulianBray said...

be certain to ask for METADATA , data above all other data ie covers everything....saw draper and Guido on the daily politics neither of them really used the programme to advantaged and brillo just floated through it. Think bith the guest could have donje with some media training and the use of a wardrobe assistant...

trevorsden said...

Why don't we all go round and throw a brick through McBrides window? Or is it only govt ministers who can get away with incitement?

But Mr Boothroyd - if there is no truth to the story McBride can happily co-operate and have his records examined.

After all as you agree, you have nothing to fear if you are innocent.

Steve Tierney said...

If they have any sense then they will have their email settings such that all sent emails are deleted immediately.

That's what I do. Not that I personally expect anybody to demand to see my emails, but neither do I have any interest in storing mountains of old messages for posterity.

Barnacle Bill said...

Mr. Ireland, I'm not going to call you Tim I don't want to get that personal, but by any chance are you that Jonny Vegas Potato Man looky - likey that was sat next to Jon Snow in the Channel Four News studio last night?
Only you seem to be displaying the same intellectual powers!

Allan said...

This whole argument is a pathetic waste of bandwidth

Jonathan said...

Iain, you say you "intend now to submit an FOI request". If you haven't done it yet they can delete any emails they wish without fear of the law. It's only when they have received the FOI request they are forbidden destroying the relevant material.

Best not to give so much advance warning!

John said...

@Tim Ireland

You know full well that your statement is defamatory. There's opinion, reasoned conclusion, and there's saying THAT.

What's the point of all this if not to try and smear Iain Dale? We all agee and disagree with Iain in pretty much equal measure (although i'll admit, since Iain shares many of my political views I mostly agree with him), yet we can all do so without petty insults and smears.

Grow up. No-one's impressed with this nonsense.

Tim said...

Unless the whole thing's a stunt designed to smear an opposing party, in which case it's a brilliant move. It allows Iain to produce no evidence, plus a plausible reason why it is not there.

Where's your evidence, Iain? Why aren't you asking for the evidence that Paul Staines claimed on national television that he had in his sweaty little hands and was ready and willing to publish that very afternoon?

Plato said...

*I am lost in someone's navel*

Tim said...

John: It is a valid criticism of the way that Iain treats his readers with selfishly-moderated conversations that follow bold assertions he cannot back with evidence.

trevorsden said...

Guido has also asked for the info under FOI

Tim said...

"Guido has also asked for the info under FOI"

Funny, just yesterday he was on television claiming to be ready to immediately publish this thing he is now asking for.

Cato said...

Iain et al, there's no point in arguing with an idiot...he'll only drag you down to his level.

Barnacle Bill said...

Cato shouldn't that read as -
"..he'll only drapper you down to his level." ?

Tim said...

Oliver Drew: BTW, while we wait for Iain to return to the issue, if it's a case of Paul Staines not wanting to burn sources, he's burned them before (he once named someone as a source and dished the dirt on them in the same breath, and I have proof of this), and I fail to see what could be holding him back now, especially as he's already gone public with a declaration that he has seen this alleged document proving a Downing Street conspiracy against Iain Dale.

Shirking From Home said...

Nothing like a fury of F5s to satisfy your collective egocentric stat porn urges.

Oliver Drew said...

@Tim:

And I'd thought you'd forgotten me! *chuckles*

First off, I apologise for being patronising, I was out of line.

Now, onto this Guido business....Yes, you're probably right (in fact if you have the evidence then you are more than likely right!).

If I were Iain (and I'm not, I've never even met him) I would have probably asked Guido. But then I would've done the Freedom of Information and Data Protection requests anyway [how do you know he hasn't done that?] to make it official.

Finally, with regard to the DP and FOI requests that Guido has made, it is noticeable that he has asked specifically about information relating to him and his website; he has not asked anything about Iain Dale.

Tim said...

Oliver Drew: Thank you. Sorry for being in any way terse about it. Iain's threads typically involve needlessly personal pile-ons, that he appears blind to while complaining about 'insults' sent his way.

Many mysteries remain because Iain - who is making out that Downing Street have something to hide - is basing his attack on something he would rather keep hidden.

Old Holborn said...

*Orders more popcorn*

Rightwinggit said...

"Downing Street have something to hide"..

Something is singular, I suggest the substitution for a multiple phrase.

The reason Guido has gone the FOI route means that if the subject denies all knowledge, Guido can then refute that by producing the original. Game over.

If something Bowdlerised is produced instead, Guido can then show the difference between that and the original, game over.

It made me smile when I saw what he was doing, your friend is now between the hammer and the anvil.

OH? more popcorn, sir!

Half The Story said...

Why is it so hard for people to understand that the point of getting the original note is to show they have it or if they deny that they have lied.

Way more powerful than just publishing it......

My guess is Iain has already seen it, and wants to see if they release it.

Tim said...

OH: I wouldn't bother; Iain's run off without addressing the point again. Only, cleverly, here he also accuses me of taking us way from it.

Meanwhile, 'John' above would do well to look at Iain Dale clearly smearing Justin Mckeating as being somehow lower in status than myself, and a stooge of Labour/leftists/me who is likely to break any and all promises.

He did this without presenting any evidence, even when called upon to do so, and refused to withdrew what he had so clearly alleged.

Rightwinggit + Half the Story: It sounds awfully clever. So you say that this is all part of the plan:

Paul Staines promised on national television that he would publish a document proving a Downing Street conspiracy against Iain Dale (involving Derek Draper) and then didn't. Instead he proclaimed that he was not going to blog about Derek Draper any more... and then did so immediately the next day (by asking Downing Street for something he already claimed to have).

Meanwhile, after throwing several quasi-legal wobblies about it over the years, he has decided not to sue Derek Draper or LabourList for reporting that, in 1986, he proposed an alliance with the BNP with the stated purpose of disrupting political meetings of the left. And Paul's happy for that claim to stand unchallenged on LabourList and this is all part of the plan, yes?

Tim said...

Bloody fiendish if you ask me.

Old Holborn said...

Tim,

Somewhere, in the far far distant future, a fat lady is going to sing.

Be patient

Tim said...

"Be patient."

Sure. When someone explains to us why it's not here yesterday as promised.

Half The Story said...

Tim, do you understand the ramifications for a Brown government if one of his closest advisers has been shown to have breached the law, for political gain?

At best he is even more discredited, at worst he has to fall on his sword.

That is if they have destroyed it or deny it.....

Old Holborn said...

Watch the video

Tim said...

OMG! Can one imagine the scale of any given object that so far only appears to exist in Paul Staines' imagination?

(And if it's that important, well done to Paul Staines for botching it so far, with that blurted promise on telly.)

quinn said...

Come on boys let it lie. You are reducing youselves to Comrade Drapers level. They love when you rise to their provocation. Lie down take deep breaths, and ignore, always ignore, they hate being blanked. There are more important things to be done.

Rexel No 56 said...

I can think of a two word answer to why Guido has gone the FOI route rather than admit that he has been involved in a leak from the Cabinet Office: Damien Green

jailhouselawyer said...

Don't I seem to recall Guido Fawkes making an allegation on Newsnight and when challenged to back it up, petered off into silence.

Then, once again, on the Brillo Show, he made an allegation and said he would publish the document to back it up, and once again silence.

It has all the hallmarks of primary school playground "I am better than you" twaddle.

If there is any difference between Draper and Staines, it is fag paper thin.

I think Staines came off second best once again on telly. And Brillo, even though the referee, knocked out Staines when he got him to admit he allowed sexist and racist comments. My only criticism of Brillo is that he left out mentioning the homophobic comments.

How do you think Staines would perform if he was subjected to a polygraph test?

Consider digesting what he said with a pinch of salt.

DespairingLiberal said...

Is the PMs Head of Strategy a civil servant? Or a private appointee of the Labour Party?

I don't think this will go anywhere - Guido was just mouthing off, as he frequently does.

Watching Them, Watching Us said...

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 section 40 Personal Information specifically forbids the disclosure of personal information about yourself, or about someone else.

You will have to try a Data Protection Act Subject Data Access request, in writing, to the Data Controller, i.e. to the Cabinet Office, 70 Whitehall.

However, they have 41 days to respond to this, and can legitimately claim that "the dog ate the backup tape" or "the laptop computer was stolen" etc. sometime between now and then, and there is then nothing you can do about it.

They can then ask you for proof of identity and for payment of up to £10 fee (nobody ever charges less than this statutory maximum), and then, after a a vague,unspecified period, they will probably write back to tell you that they have infeed lost or deleted the information you were seeking, days or weeks before,or that they could not find it in the first place.

Note tha Guido Fawkes's request is only for "emails", so if there was some skulduggery conducted via, say, fax or instant message or Facebook etc , then it will be easily evaded, perfectly legally.

If you suspect that the "dirty tricks" department in Downing street has a database or document retrieval system etc.,either computerised or manual, which they are using to compile gossip and rumour for their propaganda briefings, leaks and spin etc. then you could try serving their Data Controller i.e. the Cabinet office, with a Data Protection Act section 10 Right to prevent processing likely to cause damage or distress Data Subject Notice. and get them to stop.

No fee is required, and they must respond in writing within 21 days.

Taking it further after that means queuing up behind the backlog of complaints (12 weeks to a year or more) currently swamping the Information Commissioner's Office.

DespairingLiberal said...

Thanks for all that interesting elucidation Watching Us - strange that neither Iain, nor Staines, who purport to be highly skilled insider political bloggers, apparently have the least idea of the correct process.

Or could it be that they in fact to - and that their FOI enquiries are, well, to put it at it's simplest. A charade?

I will await the results with bated breath. Of course, there will be none. And in a few weeks, when quizzed on this, Dale will do one of his snide little brush-off offensive remarks rather than actually engage with this.

Tim said...

"And Brillo, even though the referee, knocked out Staines when he got him to admit he allowed sexist and racist comments."

Staines tried to defuse that by claiming to havce a special top-secret nasty word filter that - if it exists - has only been in place for a week or so. More spin from the man who declares himself to be an enemy of same.

Looks like he's botched his data request and all. *Now* how is he going to get his hands on evidence he claimed to already have?

jailhouselawyer said...

LOL.

Obsidian said...

I'm curious - what exactly is wrong with allowing racist, sexist or homophobic comments?

Allowing people to damn themselves in their own words is a virtue, not a sin, and the "you promote what you permit" argument only exists in the authoritarian mindset.

People who prefer to offer insults instead of arguments save time, as they advertise they're the ones to ignore.

Not seeing things that offend you doesn't stop them from existing, it just makes you ignorant of their existence.

DespairingLiberal said...

Tim - I think this posting of Iain's is the last we shall all hear of the subject. Note that Dale is not giving it to any of us here with his usual snippy little insulting "Daily Mail" brainless non-point "riposts" that he usually comes out with. The reason being that of course he knows it's all b***ock*.

As with Messrs Cambell and Mandiepoo, nothing is as old as yesterday's spin.

Jack of Kent said...
This comment has been removed by the author.