Page last updated at 20:21 GMT, Sunday, 12 April 2009 21:21 UK

Cameron 'furious' at e-mail slurs

BBC News grab of Damian McBride
Mr McBride's messages were described as "juvenile"

David Cameron is demanding a personal apology from Prime Minister Gordon Brown over e-mails sent by an adviser discussing smearing the Tories.

The Tory leader is "absolutely furious" and is calling on Mr Brown to give a guarantee that such messages will not be sent again, a spokeswoman said.

Damian McBride quit after his unfounded claims about Mr Cameron and shadow chancellor George Osborne became known.

Cabinet Office minister Liam Byrne says Mr Brown knew nothing of the e-mails.

But Labour backbencher John McDonnell has called for an inquiry to find out who was involved.

'Smear tactics'

Mr McDonnell called on Mr Brown to act decisively by launching an independent inquiry into who was involved.

"Smear tactics like this are not the Labour way," he said.

"They drag the Labour Party into the gutter. They just add further to the undermining of the belief that Labour Party supporters have placed in our party."

A Number 10 spokesman said no-one else in Downing Street knew about the "juvenile and inappropriate" messages.

The e-mails were originally sent in January to former government spin doctor Derek Draper, who runs the LabourList blog and was proposing to set up Red Rag, a new gossip-led site.

Chris Grayling: "This was right at the very heart of our government"

However, they came to the attention of Paul Staines, author of the "anti-politics" Guido Fawkes blog, who revealed their existence.

Shadow foreign secretary William Hague demanded an apology from the prime minister, plus an investigation.

He also called for an assurance that neither Damian McBride nor Derek Draper would work for the government or the Labour Party again.

"This has been a deeply disturbing revelation about the corrupting culture of spin which is still at the heart of Downing Street," he told the BBC.

Shadow home secretary Chris Grayling claimed the e-mails demonstrated a "structured plan" to publish "blatant lies" about opposition MPs.

"It's a sign of something absolutely rotten at the heart of Gordon Brown's Downing Street," he told BBC News.


There is tangible anger in some quarters of the party - concern that the publication of the e-mail extracts smears Labour in general

Laura Kuenssberg
BBC political correspondent

"This is an exceptionally serious matter and he needs to explain immediately what happened.

"The real question now is - was [Mr McBride] the only person involved in all of this?"

Cabinet Office minister Tom Watson was also alleged to have been copied in on the e-mails.

However, Mr Watson said he had known nothing of the "completely inappropriate" messages and had no involvement in discussions to create the Red Rag site.

'Gossipy'

"The first I was aware of the e-mail conversation that led to Damian McBride's resignation was when these were made known to Downing Street by national newspapers who had been given them by Paul Staines," he said.

Mr Byrne also dismissed suggestions of an orchestrated smear campaign.

"This was one private e-mail exchange between a couple of friends who were knocking backwards and forwards ideas," he said.

Cabinet Office Minister Liam Byrne said Damian McBride did the "honourable thing" by resigning

"Mr McBride, having scribbled this stuff, decided that the right place for it was the waste basket," he added.

Mr Staines has refused to reveal how the messages found their way to him, despite complaints from Mr Draper that they were private.

Mr McBride described the first claim as a ''solid investigative story'', but the other three as ''mainly gossipy, and intended to destabilise the Tories".

He added: ''Let's think about how to sequence these in with others'' - a suggestion that a longer-term plan to place stories was being hatched.

Claims were also made against the Tory backbencher Nadine Dorries, who says she is consulting lawyers and wants a personal apology from the Prime Minister.

Mr Draper has apologised to those mentioned in the e-mails and admitted "we should never really have considered the idea and I am sorry we did".

"All I can do is absolutely promise that these stories were just daft ideas that never - and would never have - got off the drawing board," he wrote on his blog.

He called on fellow bloggers to "commit to a new start" by avoiding personal attacks.

Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair's former spin doctor, wrote in his blog that he had been struck not just by the "unpleasantness" of the emails, but also by their "incompetence".

"McBride will be thinking that was his big mistake - writing it all down. His really big mistake was thinking it might be effective," Mr Campbell added.



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