Damian McBride

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Damian McBride
Downing Street Press Secretary
In office
Prime MinisterGordon Brown
Preceded byTom Kelly
Succeeded byGabby Bertin
Personal details
Born1974 (age 48–49)
London, England
Political partyLabour
EducationFinchley Catholic High School
Alma materPeterhouse, Cambridge
OccupationCivil servant, school business liaison officer

Damian McBride (born 1974) is a British political advisor. He is a former Whitehall civil servant and former special adviser to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.[1] McBride began his civil service career at HM Customs and Excise. He worked with Customs and Excise and later became Head of Communications at the UK Treasury, before becoming a special adviser.

On 11 April 2009, he resigned his position after it emerged on a political blog that he and another Labour Party advisor, Derek Draper, had exchanged emails discussing the possibility of disseminating rumours McBride had fabricated about the private lives of some Conservative Party politicians and their spouses. The emails from McBride had been sent from his 10 Downing Street email account.[2]

Early life[edit]

McBride was born and raised in North London to Irish parents.[3] He was educated at Finchley Catholic High School, a boys' state school in London. He attended Peterhouse, Cambridge, where he studied history. He wrote his final-year dissertation in praise of inciting violence and rumour-mongering in politics titled "Far More Important Than Politics? Public Policy and the Impact of Urban Riots, 1964–8". The thesis was supervised by Tony Badger, who later commented: "We disagreed over the value of the riots – I thought they were counter-productive – but he was very focused, and it was an excellent thesis". Badger tried to persuade McBride to do a PhD.[citation needed]


Following a career with HM Customs and Excise, McBride joined Her Majesty's Treasury while Gordon Brown was Chancellor of the Exchequer,[3] and after coming to the attention of Brown he was appointed Head of Communications at the department in 2003. Within two years he was working as Brown's special adviser, and oversaw his campaign to become prime minister in 2007.[4]

McBride was revealed to have sent an email to Sky Television in December 2006 in which he attacked Sky for hiring Stephen Byers and Alan Milburn, two former cabinet ministers who had been close to Tony Blair, as Labour commentators. Some in the Labour Party called for his resignation, but he survived. In 2008, he was reported to have been involved in a power struggle with Gordon Brown's senior strategist Stephen Carter, which resulted in Carter being removed from his position and given a peerage and ministerial position.[3]

During the 2008 Labour Party Conference, McBride was criticised after briefing journalists about Ruth Kelly's resignation as Secretary of State for Transport several hours before she was due to make an official announcement on the subject.[3] Alistair Darling, in his book Back From the Brink, writes that McBride also briefed against Harriet Harman at the same conference, but Harman overheard him.[5] Following these incidents, McBride ceased to deal with the media on a regular basis and was appointed Head of Strategic Planning in Downing Street.[4][6]

On 11 April 2009, it was reported by The Daily Telegraph that McBride had sent a series of emails to former Labour Party official Derek Draper discussing plans to set up the Red Rag blog which would be used to post rumours they had made up about the private lives of senior and high-profile members of the Conservative Party. These false rumours were to have included sexual and personal allegations about Conservative politicians and their spouses, including Nadine Dorries, David and Samantha Cameron, and George and Frances Osborne.[7][8] McBride conceded in his emails that he had used "poetic licence" in respect of existing gossip and rumours.[2]

The emails, which had been sent from the Downing Street Press Office, were acquired by Paul Staines, known for his Guido Fawkes blog, 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.[9] Gordon Brown later sent personal letters to those who had been mentioned in the emails,[10] expressing his regret over the incident,[11] but Conservative politicians called for him to make a public apology.[12] Brown apologised five days later while on a visit to Glasgow, saying that he was sorry about what had happened.[13]

Brown apologised for a second time on 22 April, at the first Prime Minister's Questions following the Parliamentary Easter recess, after Nadine Dorries asked him if he would like to take the opportunity to apologise to her.[citation needed] On 25 April, it was confirmed that Dorries intended to take legal action against McBride for the false allegations which had been made against her.[14] On 7 September 2009 it was confirmed that Dorries would sue McBride and Derek Draper, and also take legal action against 10 Downing Street.[15]

In his first interview on the subject of the email scandal in July 2009, McBride said that when he told Brown what he had done, the Prime Minister was so angry that he could not speak. Brown had also felt "incredibly let down".[16] He also insisted that his job as special adviser to the Prime Minister had not involved this type of work and that emailed slurs were not characteristic of the way the Prime Minister ran his government.[16]

Following his resignation from Downing Street, McBride applied for the post of Business Liaison Officer at his former school, Finchley Catholic High School, and started work there in July 2009.[17] In 2011, he became head of media at the charity CAFOD.[18]

In 2013, McBride's book, Power Trip: A Decade of Policy, Plots and Spin, was published.[18] McBride offered royalties from the book to CAFOD, but after consulting "the wider Catholic community" CAFOD's trustees and management declined the offer. McBride stated his intention to donate all royalties to "good causes."[19]

In 2015, he returned to a senior role in the Labour party as Shadow Defence Secretary Emily Thornberry's media adviser.[20]

In September 2017, the political commentator Iain Dale placed McBride at Number 95 on his list of the '100 most influential people on the Left', on the grounds that "McBride more than anyone has helped Emily Thornberry to rise up this chart this year."[21]

Personal life[edit]

McBride is a fan of Arsenal and Celtic football clubs. He is also a regular pub quiz competitor.[3][22]


  1. ^ "Senior staff appointments". Number 10. 27 June 2007. Archived from the original on 17 April 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-11.
  2. ^ a b "No 10 official quits over e-mails". BBC News. 11 April 2009. Retrieved 11 April 2009.
  3. ^ a b c d e Kirkup, James (12 April 2009). "Damian McBride, author of the smear emails: profile". London: The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 16 April 2009. Retrieved 13 April 2009.
  4. ^ a b "PM's aide known as McPoison". Daily Express. 13 April 2009. Retrieved 13 April 2009.
  5. ^ Back From the Brink, 2012, Atlantic Books, page 216
  6. ^ Dixon, Sara (11 April 2009). "Damian McBride, advisor to Gordon Brown, resigns over smear emails". London: Times Online. Retrieved 13 April 2009.
  7. ^ Hinsliff, Gaby; Tran, Mike (12 April 2009). "McBride and Draper emails: 'Gents, a few ideas'". The Observer. London. Retrieved 12 April 2009.
  8. ^ Oakeshott, Isobel (12 April 2009). "'Brilliant: the lurid lies of sex and drugs'". The Sunday Times. London. Retrieved 12 April 2009.
  9. ^ "No 10 apology over 'slur' e-mails". BBC News. 11 April 2009. Retrieved 13 April 2009.
  10. ^ "Brown sends letters over smears". BBC News. 13 April 2009. Retrieved 13 April 2009.
  11. ^ Elliott, Francis (13 April 2009). "Regrets, but no apology from Brown over e-mails sent by Damian McBride". London: Times Online. Retrieved 14 April 2009.
  12. ^ "Tories demand slur e-mail apology". BBC News. 14 April 2009. Retrieved 14 April 2009.
  13. ^ "Brown 'sorry' over e-mail slurs". BBC News. 16 April 2009. Retrieved 16 April 2009.
  14. ^ Hinsliff, Gaby (26 April 2009). "Tory MP Nadine Dorries to sue over Damian McBride 'smear' emails". The Observer. London. Retrieved 27 April 2009.
  15. ^ "MP Dorries 'to sue over smears'". BBC News. 7 September 2009. Retrieved 7 September 2009.
  16. ^ a b Booth, Jenny (20 July 2009). "Former No 10 aide Damian McBride breaks silence on smear scandal". London: Times Online. Retrieved 20 July 2009.
  17. ^ Robinson, James (20 July 2009). "Damian McBride in his own words". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 19 November 2009.
  18. ^ a b "Damian McBride reveals smears against Brown's rivals". BBC News. 20 September 2013. Retrieved 20 September 2013.
  19. ^ Meikle, James; "Cafod rejects McBride memoir royalties", The Guardian, 3 October 2013
  20. ^ "Damian McBride Is Back, HuffPost Can Reveal". HuffPost UK. 19 February 2016.
  21. ^ Dale, Iain (25 September 2017). "The 100 Most Influential People On The Left: Iain Dale's 2017 List". LBC. Retrieved 30 October 2017.
  22. ^ Watt, Nicholas (13 April 2009). "Damian McBride's departure marks the end of a bumpy Whitehall career". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 14 April 2009.

External links[edit]

Government offices
Preceded by
Tom Kelly
Downing Street Press Secretary
Succeeded by