ED BALLS, the schools secretary, used Damian McBride, the disgraced spin doctor, to smear ministerial rivals and advance his own ambitions, a Downing Street whistleblower has claimed.
In an explosive new twist to the e-mail affair, a No 10 insider has revealed that Balls was the mastermind behind a “dark arts” operation by McBride to undermine colleagues. He claims the education secretary is running a destabilising “shadow operation” inside Downing Street to clear his path for the party leadership if Labour loses the next election.
The insider said: “There is now an operation within an operation at No 10 and it answers to Ed Balls.” The whistleblower, who has had a ringside seat on the power struggles inside No 10, claims that Balls:
— Engineered McBride’s move from civil servant to special adviser
— Repeatedly protected McBride when colleagues called for him to be sacked
— Was in constant contact with McBride, sending him up to 20 e-mails a day
— Instructed McBride to brief against cabinet rivals
— Exploits a weekly “strategy” meeting, which he chairs at Downing Street, to shore up his power base.
The whistleblower claims the prime minister is “strangely naive” about Balls’s activities: “He doesn’t see what’s going on. He unwittingly helps Ed by sidelining the ministers Ed sees as a threat.” All the claims are denied by Balls, who labelled them “completely fabricated and malevolent nonsense”. A spokesman for Brown also dismissed the claims.
Senior Labour figures have confirmed there is widespread anxiety about Balls’s activities. The revelations will fuel concern that the government is in terminal decline, with senior ministers more worried about positioning themselves for life after defeat than about rescuing the economy. The whistleblower, who has never spoken to the media before, was prompted to speak out through loyalty to Brown and the Labour party. He was angered by an interview given by Balls last week in which he distanced himself from McBride, who was forced to resign over plans to spread scurrilous rumours about senior Tories.
“In that interview, Ed called Damian ‘Mr McBride’ as if he barely knew him. In fact, Ed was running McBride. It was Ed who first spotted McBride’s talent, Ed who was behind his appointment as a special adviser and Ed who made sure he stayed in the job. Recently, McBride has been working almost entirely for him,” the whistleblower said. Investigations by The Sunday Times have revealed that before the e-mail scandal, at least eight senior government figures urged Brown to dismiss McBride amid concerns that he was a liability. They included Lord Mandelson, the business secretary; Harriet Harman, the deputy Labour leader; Alastair Campbell, the former spin doctor; Lord Carter, the former No 10 strategy chief; Douglas Alexander, Labour’s election supremo; and two other Downing Street officials, David Muir and Nick Stace. It is understood Gus O’Donnell, the cabinet secretary, also raised concerns.
According to the insider, on each occasion Balls protected McBride, persuading Brown he was too valuable to lose: “Even before we got to Downing Street there were discussions about whether it was wise for McBride to come too. Some thought he should stay at the Treasury. But Ed blocked it.”
Balls, who has worked alongside Brown for 15 years, has made little secret of his ambition to become chancellor, saying only a month ago in an interview that he would “love” the job. Publicly he has claimed to have no “plan” to become party leader.
The insider claims Balls used McBride to help clear his path, “instructing” the spin doctor to brief against colleagues who could be a threat. Among his alleged targets were Alexander, David Miliband, the foreign secretary, and Jacqui Smith, the home secretary. He claims Balls hopes to replace Darling at the next reshuffle.
The whistleblower went on: “Very soon after Gordon became PM, Ed was alarmed by a poll showing Jacqui was the second most popular cabinet minister. He panicked that she might emerge as a potential rival. He dripped poison in Gordon’s ear about her, and Gordon got worried and cut her off at the knees.”
The whistleblower revealed that Balls was given the chairmanship of a weekly “strategy” meeting inside No 10 as a “sop” after the return of Mandelson to government. Regular attendees include Tom Watson, the junior cabinet minister, Charlie Whelan, political director of Unite, the UK’s largest trade union, and, until his resignation last week, McBride.
Well, bugger me gently. I am beginning to think the whole house of cards could come tumbling down if Brown isn't careful. If this is even 50% true, Ed Balls has some very serious questions to answer. I have always thought the prospect of him running or the leadership was only a product of his self delusion. This story rather confirms that. At the moment, I suspect John McDonnell has more chance of winning the leadership than Ed Balls.
All we need now is for Harriett Harman to make one of her helpful interventions and the night will be complete.
UPDATE: Jonathan Oliver, Political Editor of the Sunday Times, has written a comprehensive roundup of this week's events, with some new facts HERE.
UPDATE 22.20: None of this, or the contents of the previous post have made the BBC news headlines.
Cheering has just erupted around our kitchen table. Isn't hubris a wonderful thing?
Wow! "malevolent"..."dark arts"... do we need a crystal ball to see what's going on in Labour, or is it all plainly Balls?! (sorry, it IS nearly 10pm and I've been up since 6am with the kids...)
'House of Cards'
'To Play the King'
'The Final Cut'
and now ...
THis is great, the self-destruction of NuLabour.
*Gets more popcorn*
Oh dear me - and here are the latest polling figures - terrible
“completely fabricated and malevolent nonsense” sorry what are you referring to the allegations about you or the allegations about the conservatives last Sunday.
As for wanting to become chancellor sorry but you have to be in power to have that job and you guys certainly will not be.
What the heck is Charlie f**king Whelan doing inside Downing Street ?
He is supposed to be running a union !
This isn't beer and sandwiches !!
I'm going to need a large blank wall and several packs of post-it notes to work out who is briefing against who using which lies...
It wouldn't suprise me if (So What) Ed has ended up briefing against himself.
even more bloody fantastic!
This whole affair reminds me of the nursery ryhme Humpty Dumpty. They all sat on the wall. And then had a great fall. All the Kings Horses and all the King's Men. Couldn't put the Labour Party back again.
I do so love watching the ferrets in the sack going for each other.
Is Mr Balls disguising himself as guido fawkes both seem intent on bringing down people within the government
Here is proof
It's been an open secret for some time in the House that Balls is canvassing for Leadership support.
So long Ed.
Take your wife with you
Not even Malcolm Tucker himself could get Number 10 out of this unholy mess...
It is really starting to unravel very seriously - Harriet Harman must be getting dressed and ready for her '5 minute call - you're on next' from the theatre director...
Even Balls will not be able to say "So what"
I'll pass on the buggering you gently thankyou, but isn't it just wonderful to have a government dedicated to and concentrating on getting the country (not to mention the world)out of a serious economic mess - thank the Lord for New Labour I say.
While some of us might take pleasure in the exposure and collapse of the present regime, it is, more seriously, a national disaster that this lot are running the country just now. Apart from our economic and fiscal woes, we are being governed by a clique of vicious buffoons (an extraordinary combination, but I can think of none better at this hour).
This is an ex-government. It has ceased to govern.
Nu-Labour is like a Greek tragedy.
Gordon Brown has been seen running up and down Downing Street muttering “infamy infamy they have all got it in for me”.
Harman said tonight "we will not fight in the gutter" well it's a bit late love isn't it?! The Labour Party has long since slipped down the drain and has been operating in a cesspit.
Why couldn't resist a dig at the Beeb, Iain? I'm not for a minute defending the utterly unlikeable Balls, but we do try not to run unsubstantiated claims on the news without giving their subject the right of reply.
Anyway, here's the tedious bit. At exactly 2220 (nicely timed, eh?) a Balls spokesman phoned back and said:
"These allegations are completely fabricated and malevolent nonsense without any foundation in fact.
"The only fact is that Ed Balls and Liam Byrne have jointly chaired a meeting on Wednesday afternoons at the express request of the Prime Minister.
"Other than that Ed has spent all his time trying to do his best for children and young people. He has always acted in the best interests of the Labour government while seeking, as he said in his interviews this week, to take the policy fight about the future of education to the Conservatives."
What a very unfortunate first picture of Mr Balls.
You have to say, with the benefit of hindsight, that everything had to lead back to Balls.
He is by far the most intelligent and ruthless member of the cabinet, with the possible exception of Straw.
I wonder what control Balls exerts over Brown?
Can you imagine how bad it would be if he became PM? He would properly promote his missus the odious and patronising Ms Cooper to Chancellor. It scares the daylights out of me just thinking about it.
BJ, ITN and Sky are both leading their bulletins with it. The BBC doesn't even give it a mention in their headlines. And then devotes about two sentences to it in the bulletin. Very poor news judgement, I'd say.
"My Rival" from 1980's Gaucho. And I know it's not Dan, but I also adore "So What" from Miles Davies' seminal 1959 album, Kind of Blue.
This is an ex-government. It has ceased to govern"
Bit slow on the uptake, aren't we Anon??
The rest of us were fully aware of that a LONG time ago!
Someone call CSI.
You would need to be a forensic detective to workout who is working for who and who is briefing against who and who knew what and when?
When do they find time to fill in their expenses?
I know one thing they are not running the country.
I think they have left the running of the country to Wild E Coyote and look how good he was at getting Road Rrunner, meep meep!
Iain, you're talking utter guff. Sky led with the allegations against Ray Collins at 10pm. They only got to Balls in the paper review at 2225.
ITV at 9.55 led with the G20 riots story. The Ray Collins story was second. Ed Balls wasn't mentioned in the headlines (for boring technical reasons I've not been able to watch their entire item)
Plenty - you are right, of course. And it's not just any old nursery rhyme: it was written during the English Civil War, a sort of social commentary in nursery-rhyme form, "like",! (considering the absence of blogs it was the least they could do). Roundheads, also known as Parliamentarians, could have been the 'egg' d'ya think? In which case very apt.
Re: anonymous (10:24pm), I wondered WHY? "an extraordinary combination"... until I realised I'd (mis-)read Baboons into Buffoons! Slip of the brain...
As for me personally, I'm slipping back into odes to old-fashioned England in my blog. I'm getting tired of all this NuLabour bother. Bring me back the Conservatives! - as my posh old Kensington Granny used to harp on about at tea! At least "Easter weekend" wouldn't then have been referred to as "This Important Bank Holiday Break"... God Save my children from such a "New" Future...
To be fair, Iain, the NOTW story is number 3 item on line as at 22.43 (and a bit earlier but I just checked) on the BBC news website. I suspect that they want to check their stories these days.
I salute the work of you, Guido, Dizzy et al but suggest that, while celebrating the power and work of the bloggers, you don't forget that there are some excellent journalists out there, not least Andrew Gilligan.
PS Sorry to be anonymous but I don't know how to post under my own name.
My point was that neither story was mentioned in your headlines - go back and read what I actually wrote, as opposed to what you have imagined I wrote. And then you included about three sentences about Ray Collins towards the end of the bulletin. Sorry. The BBC got it wrong and you might as well admit it.
Wile E Coyote had a better track record of clever ideas that Gordon Brown.
I know I am sad but I really do think that is a good analogy.
All together now (to the tune of O Tannenbaum) Oh Schadenfreude, oh Schadenfreude..........und so weiter
Brown's leadership is unravelling faster than I expected.
Charlie Wheelan at the centre of it, at the centre of the ballot box balls up and no doubt at the cntre of the Glenrothes postal vote fiasco.
Hell's teeth! So, it IS all Balls, then?!
Nasty little toad...
fortunately, with all of the spin and counter spin, who knows who is responsible for what.
I noted this piece...
"According to the whistleblower – whose account was confirmed by a minister who described Balls’s activities as “unforgiveable” – Mandelson is particularly frustrated by the “shadow operation” and is desperate for “someone to bring order” to the mess inside No 10. His preferred candidate is Alastair Campbell, Blair’s former spin doctor."
This could just as easily be a smear on Balls, to destabalise the Brownites and to ensure that a Blairite is most likely to take over, and not a Brownite?
The BBC will always be tentative and slow when it comes to controversial political stories.
Every BBC reporter or news editor must be fearful that he will become the next Andrew Gilligan.
Maguire has no shame:
TORY SCANDAL: Vice madam to name four top Tories in tell-all book
Next on the list to be 'outed' - Max Clifford.
He's undoubtedly behind this story. I know his politics and I know his past.
I bet an ass form the Home Office is sent out to a press conference with a lackey gallery of senior police officers to tell us we are in imminent danger of a terrorist attack, they are not sure where it will happen or when but they will be raiding the Home Office to question all the illegal workers to find out if they know anything?
All this in the knowledge that the lick ass BBC and the rest of the lick ass media will move onto this non story and leave the Nu-Labour Machiavellian conspiracy alone!
You can just type in a name against name/URL
the point about the current stories is it gives us all another fig leaf fore our two minute hate against Gordon Brown.
it makes it that bit more morally justifiable for labour voters to abstain.
Regarding a Tory tell all scandal, I could not care less its what the leaders do in government that i'm interested in. What they do in there personal life's should have no reflection on them as leaders.
It is a cheap story meant to titillate the masses when the masses should be more interested in having a government that works for them instead of having a government or lier's, cheats and opportunistic fools.
Trevorsden: meep meep!
The BBC looks after their own. They are the propaganda arm of the left and will downplay these scandals until to do so becomes untenable. Then they will reluctantly admit that there are certain "allegations" about senior Labour figures.
Whereas if this was a Tory black ops dept in a Tory government or the chairman of the Tory party having a secret meeting with say, Iain, in the offices of the CBI...well, I think the BBC would run that. And fast.
So it wasnt all Mc Bride`s...............it was BALLS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The BBC won't run it instantly as it's based on an unnamed source. Needs the other parties to get into the row.
You'd laugh at these pathetic posturers if they weren't causing so much damage. So plainly out for their own advantage and the devil take the country. What did IDS do when his leadership of the Conservative party was challenged? Spread smears? Hardly. What did he do when he lost the leadership? Set up the Centre for Social Justice to subsequent resounding acclaim. There are honourable people on both right and left. Sadly, they aren't to be found in the higher echelons of the Labour party.
Ed Balls: F**k My Life
He's a joke and might even make a marketable joke if this is true. God save us from these morons addicted to power and nothing else.
Mandy has clearly decided that Balls can be sacrificed as a 'lightning conductor' for the rest of the No 10 Government spin operation.
Surely Lord Mandy will be telling Harriet and Ed Miliband to resolve their differences and step in to No 10 and No 11 ?
It's running the BBC site on the front page at least as of 23:50 Sat.
As a fellow alumnus of Nottingham High School, I should imagine our Alma Mater must be terribly proud of the fine young gentleman it produced in Mr Balls.
Just wanted to add this isMandelson's work. Sunday briefing against Brownites fits his MO perfectly. It's a preemptive strike to meet campbells demand that balls and his close group are removed from number ten before he helps brown out.
Worth noting that, in terms of political indoctrination, Ed Balls has been running the Labour Dirty Tricks Unit against the minds and perceptions of our children.
Politicians are a nasty bunch. You had the serial screwing of successive Tory Leaders, the LibDems plot against Ming and now this grubby lot.
Is it me or have we not heard from David Miliband about any of this or has he been gagged and shackled to his desk at the foreign office after all he wants to be the next dear leader
The airwaves are being deafened by the sound of Murdoch leaving the sinking ship.
"I am going to tell you a number of things, but if you really want to be a good journalist you only have to remember two words: governments lie."
The end is the most dangerous time of all.
The question that is coming up is will Brown resign after the June election results, or can Labour get the guts to push him out ? Now the attack dog system is being dismantled, perhaps a rebellion is possible.
Which reminds me - who did leak those emails, and could that have been their motivation ?
Perhaps Harriet could yet be PM, if only for 9 months.
Hmm, Big Book of New Labour Sleaze Vol. II in the offing?
Better be quick, it's only got one more year of shelf-life left...
This whole article reminds me of the 1979 "Not the Nine o'clock News" photograph of President Carter shouting outside the White House and the caption:
"Fears are growing today for the sanity of President Carter after he was seen calling for his own resignation outside the White House"
This whole article seems to be Brown trying to save himself by briefing against Balls. Astonishing.
And very worrying - the head of the Royal Navy - the one with the Trident Codes - needs to be briefed on this situation, and the briefcase needs to be removed to the safety of Northwood bunker for "repairs". Until Publius Servilius Casca and Brutus (or BrutESS) turn up with the sword, or indeed the straight jacket.
isn't this the classic double bluff? bit of truth but above all moves Gordo from the firing line.
Smells like a rat to me
How come the only dude defending the BBC is the guy who gets paid by them? Loyalty is admirable but hardly unbiassed.
Er, isn't this just another piece of spin to distance McBride from Brown ad blame eveything on Balls istead?
'A whistleblower inside Downing Street..'
I think what is clear, that if we follow our previous thinking regarding last weeks revelations that NOTHING happens in Downing St without Brown's knowledge, then Brown has sacrificed Balls to delay his own downfall.
Brown/Balls-What a team!
Kevin says on news 24 he was at 2 meetings about websites and ONE of them didn't discuss smears. Givenhe is trying to clear his name and not lie then it necessarily follows that he did discuss smears in the other meeting.
Come on Iain this is a controversial political story and I'd imagine the BBC are doing they're job and checking it out.
It was so long ago you picked up some apparently contrary story about climate change and said "Can you imagine the BBC's Ten O clock news covering this?"
I pointed out they had.. the night BEFORE you noticed the story but you never corrected the main post. So in light of that I'll stick with the the BBC's news judgement over yours.
Good grief - only just noticed the photos - you're right - Balls is Peers Fletcher Dervish - how uncanny.
OT - Laura Tobin the new BBC weather girl is very easy on the eye. BBC not all bad....err...is that the best you can say?
We're all waiting for you to name the sex scandal Tories in the Mirror piece.
You must know, surely...?
Balls may be an intelligent, sophisticated politician but to me every photo of him says Piers Fletcher-Dervish.
excellent find, still laughing at 'so what' balls and at the pics which accompanied the article.
BJ, care to justify the BBC's online News priorities?
Can you point me towards the last time the latest polls were mentioned as an article on the BBC News website after mentioning the "Brown Bounce"?
On your front page this headline is there but mention of the latest poll (among many, many other things) seems absent:
"Toilet training mishap as toddler's foot gets stuck in potty".
Strangely enough the poll doesn't even make it to the 'Politics' page (once again).
The story on Labour's tampered ballot box seems to have been underplayed too.
What I love is how the BBC thinks we don't notice the omission and playing down of stories that are detrimental to the Labour Party.
I await your justification.
"Politicians are a nasty bunch. You had the serial screwing of successive Tory Leaders, the LibDems plot against Ming and now this grubby lot."
I think you're missing the narrative the tories are trying to create here, which is that briefing against colleagues was invented by the Labour Party in 2007, and that the BBC is deliberately trying to suppress this fact by pretending that it's not the biggest news story in the world.
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