'Nightmare' for Downing Street as Damian McBride faces Commons grilling

Damian McBride could be hauled before a Parliamentary committee to explain his role as Gordon Brown's former chief media adviser, PRWeek has learned.

Parliament: MPs could grill McBride
Parliament: MPs could grill McBride

Sources on the Commons public administration select committee told PRWeek that the committee would investigate the role played by McBride and other special advisers in Government.

The committee could also attempt to look into Downing Street email records.
 
One committee source said: ‘There will be an evidence session to look at the role of special advisers. We’d like to do it as soon as possible.’
 
It is understood that many MPs on the committee are deeply concerned about the role played by McBride and other special advisers – both in Downing Street and in other departments.

McBride’s recent actions were discussed in a meeting of the MPs this week although the committee is yet to decide which advisers to call in for questioning.
 
‘The McBride stuff happened over recess. There was a conversation about it in the first meeting back and we decided to do something on it,’ said the source. ‘The question is who we get in. Probably not current special advisors because they wouldn’t say anything. It is more likely that we will call in former special advisers.’
 
Asked about the prospect of looking into Downing Street email records, the source said this was a possibility: ‘It’s not in the realms of the ridiculous. There is a public administration issue about what you write down as opposed to having a conversation about it. For example we recently asked for and obtained the email records about knife crime statistics.’
 
The public administration select committee is chaired by Labour MP Tony Wright. A spokesperson for the committee did not deny that it was preparing to look into the role of special advisers.
 
Downing Street is said to be desperate to stop the committee from pressing ahead with the plans. In particular, Number Ten staff want to stop the select committee from digging into email trails.
 
A Downing Street insider told PRWeek: ‘Number Ten is still in damage limitation mode, trying to prevent Ed Balls and co from being dragged down with McBride.

'The focus is on managing the remaining loose ends - the fallout from Balls’ Today programme fiasco, handling Guido’s FOI requests and heading off any inquiry by the public administration select committee into email records. The ultimate nightmare is a Hutton-style publication of Number Ten emails.’

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