With the news of McBride’s behaviour making newspaper front pages for a third consecutive day, the PM’s top media advisers are now working flat out to ensure that no ministers are linked to the story.
A Downing Street insider said: ‘The Number Ten machine has been hit very hard by this, there have been endless conference calls and crisis meetings all weekend as there’s great concern that focus will spread to others in GB’s entourage… none of whom are strangers to the dark arts.’
The Conservative Party has already attempted to implicate Cabinet Office minister Tom Watson, who has insisted he had no knowledge of McBride’s plans to smear senior Tories.
But Downing Street is also concerned that MPs in Brown’s inner circle such as Ed Balls, Ian Austin and Nick Brown could also be dragged in to the coverage.
Meanwhile sources close to Labour blogger Derek Draper are understood to be investigating how the email exchange between McBride and Draper came to light. One Labour source with close links to Draper told PRWeek: ‘It looks like there has been serious foul play.'
But Guido Fawkes, the blogger who obtained the emails in the first place, has insisted they were obtained by proper journalistic methods.
McBride is longstanding aide to Brown whose tendency towards Machiavellian media tactics was hinted at in a PRWeek profile of the spin doctor back in 2007.
In October 2008, McBride stepped down from briefing lobby journalists to work on longer-term strategy. At the time PRWeek polled leading media professionals and found that McBride was seen as less effective than other high-profile political comms chiefs of his generation. The research showed that former Downing Street comms director Alastair Campbell was seen as the most effective operator of recent years with an average score of 8.2 out of ten, while McBride came last with an average score of 5.5.