‘We don’t comment on staffing matters.’ Pressing them further, one could have eked out the off-the-record comment: ‘Derek has no official role.’ But that hasn’t been enough to protect the party from vilification this weekend.
The unlikely victims are Labour’s online team, who will be unfairly associated with the opprobrium surrounding Damian McBride. In the past 18 months, under assistant general secretary Alicia Kennedy, this increasingly successful team has been allowed to grow and innovate, supported by the consultancy Tangent Labs and Number 10’s Mark Flanagan, the man who got Gordon Brown Twittering. But these names aren’t in the news, because none of them have been involved in the emails exposed in the media. These people have been doing their jobs – and doing them well.
When Labour general secretary Ray Collins asked Draper to work unpaid as his new media adviser, a few eyebrows were raised – not least because Draper knows little about new media campaigning. Draper then set up LabourList, funded by the Unite union political fund overseen by McBride’s predecessor, Charlie Whelan.
LabourList was launched at Labour HQ, so the facade of ‘independence’ from the Labour Party was unsustainable.
Labour wanted this ‘independence’ as a buffer against whatever silly things Draper might do, but it relied on implausible deniability. Draper was left to his own devices without any oversight from the professionals at HQ and McBride thought he could connive with Draper in a way he would not have considered had Draper run an official Labour channel.
I’m not pure: I run a gossip blog where I seek out and publish embarrassing material, mostly about Tory figures. But I do try to be accurate and not contradict my own values. In raising homosexuality and mental and sexual health as sources of derision, McBride and Draper have failed to abide by Labour values. Because of them, the entire Labour brand is looking a little soiled.