Derek William Draper (born 15 August 1967) is a former English lobbyist. As a political advisor he became known for his role in two political scandals, "Lobbygate" in 1998 and "Smeargate" in 2009 while Draper was editor of the LabourList website. He has worked as a psychotherapist, and is a managing consultant at YSC.
He is the author of two books, Blair's 100 Days and Life Support.
Born in Chorley, Lancashire, Draper was educated at Southlands High School in Chorley, graduating in 1984. He later attended Runshaw College, Leyland and the University of Manchester. While at the university, Draper provided hospitality for Ken Livingstone, who had missed his train after a Labour Club meeting. Livingstone was reportedly astonished to find displayed in Draper's student room an improbable large poster of Labour Party deputy leader, Roy Hattersley. At around this time, he first met Charlotte Raven, with whom he was later involved romantically.
Draper began his political career in 1990, when he became the constituency secretary for Nick Brown. In 1992, he left this job and went to work as a researcher for MP for Hartlepool Peter Mandelson. In 1996, he became a director of a lobbying firm called GPC Market Access, and was employed by them until early 1999. While working at GPC Market Access, he set up the New Labour organisation Progress with Liam Byrne. During the late 1990s, Draper worked as the Political Editor of the Modern Review, was briefly a columnist for the Daily Express, and a presenter on Talk Radio UK.
In 1998, while still working as a director at GPC Market Access, Draper was caught on tape, with Jonathan Mendelsohn, boasting to Greg Palast – an undercover reporter from The Observer posing as a businessman – about how they could sell access to government ministers and create tax breaks for their clients. When the tabloids got hold of the story, they dubbed it "Lobbygate". On the recording, Draper said that "there are 17 people who count in this government ... [to] say I am intimate with every one of them is the understatement of the century." Palast also wrote that Draper said, regarding his motivation: "I just want to stuff my bank account at 250 pounds an hour" he went on to add that "Draper was nothing more than a messenger boy, a factotum, a purveyor, a self-loving, over-scented clerk". Although he denied the allegations and accused The Observer of attempting to entrap him, he was widely ridiculed in the aftermath. Palast later stated that the subsequent media coverage got his original story wrong, and that it was not primarily about boastful lobbyists: "the real story was about Tony Blair and his inner circle".
Following his involvement in the "Lobbygate" scandal, Draper was sacked from his job at the Daily Express and generally shunned by Labour insiders. His friend Peter Mandelson said that Draper "[h]as a fine intelligence, but sometimes I am afraid he misuses that intelligence. He gets above himself. But now he has been cut down to size and I think probably he will learn a very hard lesson from what has happened."
After leaving politics, Draper retrained as a psychotherapist, obtaining an MA in clinical psychology after "three years in Berkeley, California". While in Berkeley, worked as "the development director of a community counselling centre"; later, to have entered "private practice in Marylebone, London". He has since clarified that he in fact studied at the Wright Institute of California, a graduate school in the town of Berkeley founded by Nevitt Sanford. Draper responded to the controversy surrounding his claimed psychotherapy degree, by denying the allegations completely and saying that this was "a brazen attempt to smear me by Guido Fawkes and David Hencke". He has also stated he is considering taking legal action against them.
Draper is a member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. Draper writes an occasional column for the Mail on Sunday newspaper on psychotherapy issues and also writes monthly columns in the magazines “Psychologies” and “Therapy Today”. He is also the author of a chapter in The Future of the NHS.
In response to a formal complaint the BACP announced (24 November 2009) in a statement on their web site that it has "considered complaints received against Mr Draper concerning his involvement in an email scandal earlier this year which brought his profession as a psychotherapist into the public domain and therefore the name and reputation of BACP. An independent Appeal Panel was convened to consider the matter and decided, in the light of all the evidence and the commitments of Mr Draper, that his membership of this Association would not be withdrawn." It further clarifies Drapers qualifications. "Derek Draper has the following qualifications: An M.A. in Psychology from the Wright Institute in Berkeley (2004) and a second M.A. in the Foundations of Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy from the Tavistock Centre, London / Essex University (2009). The former was the result of three years full-time study, the latter of two years of part-time study. As part of his first M.A. he undertook an extensive clinical training, undertaking over 1500 hours of supervised clinical work with different client populations and therapeutic modalities."
In the 2005 General Election Draper urged people to vote tactically against Labour, saying, "I don't want my vote to be used as vindication for Tony Blair, I'd like him to wake up after the election and feel like a hunted man".
On 7 June 2009, emails that were highly critical of Gordon Brown that Peter Mandelson sent Draper in January 2008 were leaked to the News of the World which claimed that Brown was "insecure" and a "self-conscious person, physically and emotionally".
LabourList and 'Smeargate'
During 2008, Draper made a return to British politics. He was described on the BBC television current affairs programme Newsnight, on 12 September 2008, as a Labour Campaign Advisor. Draper's position at that time was as an unpaid adviser to Ray Collins, the then General Secretary of the Labour Party.
Draper was the editor of LabourList.org, which was launched in January 2009. He explained that he started the website in response to the increasing role that the internet was playing in British politics and so that Labourites would have their own place on the blogosphere. Contributors to his website include David Lammy, Peter Mandelson, James Purnell and Piers Morgan. Although LabourList was generally supportive of the Labour Party, it claimed to publish articles and views critical of the Labour government. Draper stepped down as editor of LabourList in May 2009 following "Smeargate".
On 11 April 2009, it was reported by The Daily Telegraph that Gordon Brown's special adviser, Damian McBride had sent a series of emails to Draper discussing plans to set up a blog which would be used to post false rumours about the private lives of senior or prominent members of the Conservative Party and their spouses. These smears would have included sexual and personal fabrications against MP Nadine Dorries, Conservative leader David Cameron and his wife, Samantha, and Shadow Chancellor George Osborne and his wife Frances.
The emails, which had been sent from the Downing Street Press Office, found their way to Paul Staines, who brought them to the attention of the media. McBride resigned later the same day, and 10 Downing Street issued an apology for the "juvenile and inappropriate" emails. Gordon Brown sent personal letters to those who had been mentioned in the emails, expressing his regret over the incident, but Conservative politicians called for him to make a public apology. Brown apologised a few days later while on a visit to Glasgow, saying that he was sorry about what had happened.
Draper later apologised for his part in the affair. Although in his reply to McBride's email he had described the idea as "absolutely totally brilliant", Draper claimed that he only responded to the email in order to gain favour from Downing Street for LabourList. A closer examination of Draper's emailed reply shows the plot was far more advanced, with Draper knowing that the controversial Red Rag blogsite had already been set up and offering to sort out the technology with trade union official Andrew Dodgshon.
The national press referred to McBride and Draper's actions as an "orchestrated strategy of dishonesty".  Trevor Kavanagh of The Sun described Draper as an "unstable cocktail of charm and venom".
In the wake of the incident, Labour sought to distance itself from Draper's LabourList blog, saying that his website is not owned by the Labour Party. Draper also came under pressure to resign his post as editor of LabourList. Peter Oborne criticised Draper's failure to resign and his continued association with the site as "morally revolting".
It was reported on 6 May 2009 that Draper stepped down from his position as editor of the LabourList website in the wake of the No 10 smears scandal. In his resignation statement, Draper is reported as to have said: "I regret ever receiving the infamous email and I regret my stupid, hasty reply. I should have said straight away that the idea was wrong."
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- The Sun report on Draper/McBride
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