Damian McBride has confessed his hand in the worst weekend of my career

I now have the dubious pleasure of knowing that Damian McBride's betrayal of government secrets, which resulted in my name being splashed across The Sunday Times, was at the top of even his long list of shameful acts.

Siobhan Kenny:
Siobhan Kenny:

The incident is what he calls his first "proper dirty story" in his current warts-and-more-warts confessional book. Better late than never, I suppose.

It's good to see that he is finally confessing to his part in the worst weekend of my professional career.

In similar timing to his latest salvo, it was on the eve of the Labour Party Conference in 2004. I was director of communications at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), working for Secretary of State Tessa Jowell.

The meeting was to discuss the overall communications plan for Government and McBride was representing the Treasury. He didn’t stay much beyond a session on working with Number 10.

On Saturday lunchtime, my heart sank as the DCMS duty press officer informed me that I was a large part of The Sunday Times’ front page splash.

McBride had selected Tony Blair's three closest allies – Jowell, John Reid and David Blunkett – and had quoted extensively from me and my colleagues from the Home Office and the Department of Health. Selective use of quotes made the points more trenchant, but there was no denying I had been pretty forthright. That was the purpose of the meeting.

I tried to ring McBride. For once he was unresponsive. I was extremely lucky that Jowell understood straight away what was going on.

They already had wind of the anti-Blair briefing at conference. She was fantastically understanding but it might not have been like that. Certainly, as McBride so candidly says, he didn't give a monkey's either way.

The thing that really staggers me about McBride's account is that he actually thought he was unlikely to be a suspect. Everyone knew immediately that it was him.

"To whom the good" is always a good question when you want to know where a story comes from. Little doubt that the Brown camp thought they were inflicting damage on the prime minister with the leak.

McBride was a civil servant at the time, acting in a highly political and thoroughly reprehensible manner. The subsequent failure of the civil service to sack him allowed him to carry on acting in this way for a further five years.

Unbelievably, he moved to Number 10 with Gordon Brown. It came as little surprise to all those who had known his modus operandi, much emboldened after years of being given free rein, that he finally got caught.

So, no thanks to McBride, I carried on working at DCMS and left, of my own accord, just as London was awarded the 2012 Olympics.

And even though educated as a Catholic at the sister school to McBride's current employer, Finchley Catholic High, I am finding the reformed sinner line just a tiny bit difficult to swallow.

Siobhan Kenny is the outgoing group comms director at HarperCollins Publishing

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