These smears would make Damian McBride proud

7:11 pm - September 28th 2009

by Sunny Hundal    

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Former BBC journalist Nick Assinder has written a stinging attack on Andrew Marr’s legitimisation of right-wing smears by asking whether Brown had been taking pills:

The story might have stopped there if it had not been for the fact that bloggers – and, in the first instance it was right-wing bloggers like Guido and Iain Dale – ran with it.

Dale, for example, did the old trick of criticising those who were attacking Brown on the basis of his alleged ill-health, stating, if the story was true, the Prime Minister deserved sympathy not ridicule. It ensured the story got another good show in the blogosphere and, inevitably, was then taken up by the mainstream media.

So, here is a classic example of a dark, unsubstantiated rumour about the Prime Minister’s personal life that owes its existence entirely to a single blog. The fact that it fitted the narrative about Brown’s character only ensured it gained even greater exposure.

Read the whole thing – it is a strong attack, made more potent because Nick Assinder is a former BBC colleague and a journalist at the Mail and Daily Express.

Channel 4 News today exposed this:

The man whose blog carried allegations that Prime Minister Gordon Brown was taking anti-depressants has told Channel 4 News he has no proof to support the story.

Over at the Left Foot Forward blog, Will Straw reports that Andrew Marr admitted today that he got it “in the neck” for his question. I get the feeling this isn’t over yet.

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Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments

I get the feeling the left aren’t too keen on the independence of the BBC any more.

Oh, you see I thought these allegations were originated by a LibDem/Green voting blogger, then repeated in the LibDem endorsing Independent newspaper, then picked up by the impartial BBC and the rest of us later.

Somehow it is still Dale and Guido’s doing. This site really has become a wacky conspiracy theory site with the same two villains coming up all the time.

Still as I say to Dale, we’d miss it if you didn’t care.

3. Silent Hunter

So are you going to start swearing at everyone who disagrees with you on this thread as well Sunny?

Perhaps we could get foul mouth Sally to do a stint; if her Mum hasn’t put her to bed yet.

If the allegation that Gordon takes pills is out there, then the question is legitimate. He can either answer the question or leave voters to make their own mind up.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but we didn’t see Sunny jumping to John McCain’s defence when his health was used by the American Left as a stick to beat him with.

An interesting piece of revisionism. The first reference I saw to it was in one of Guido’s hilarious “cartoons” three days before Matthew Norman’s column, to say nothing of the subsequent flogging to death we have come to expect with these smear pieces. Those who are going to publish this drivel can at least have the balls to stand by it rather than bleat about how someone else did it first, an excuse which loses its potency the further you get away from the school playground.

The unasked question is: What is in this for Andrew Marr?

At first examination, the query he raised was the journalistic equivalent of a professional foul in sport. You gain a brief advantage but as people replay the moment, they like it even less. Their appraisal of the offender changes, whether they are colleagues or the opposition. Some people will stop talking to the offender, which is not what a reporter needs at the start of a conference week.

So we have to assume that Marr’s motivation was stronger than the urge for a quick headline. He’s too smart to have made a really bad judgement call — and I don’t recall him pursuing blog allegations previously, because he is a relatively serious journalist.

Thus I reckon that Andrew Marr has a stronger hand than he has so far displayed.

@5 That might be the first reference you saw Jimmy, but it was going round for weeks.

Can I ask you why you come to my site?

@6 Bingo.

@7 Morbid curiosity.

Somehow it is still Dale and Guido’s doing. This site really has become a wacky conspiracy theory site with the same two villains coming up all the time.

Attention, Tory operatives – this is how it’s done. Guido may have spent weeks pimping his Gordon is mental story (illustrated with hilarious cartoons, no less!) but when a gaggle of Guido-reading journalistic imbeciles pick it up, it turns out that a big boy did it and ran away, and anyone who says differently is also mental.

Bravo, Guido, bravo. It’s insultingly transparent horseshit and it wouldn’t fool a houseplant, of course. Mind, I’ve read your comments section, so I’m guessing that won’t be a problem for you.

Dale is a smarmy, cowardly little shit. I would not trust him an inch.

As for all the trolls, we must remember that if their great hero Guido walked out onto London’s streets and gunned down 30 people they would all be one here defending him. There is nothing the scum won’t accept if it is done by their master.

Marr asked Brown if he took drugs. Trolls said that is fine because the question has been raised by Labour people. When challenged to prove this they have failed to do so.

They hide behind terms like ‘control freak, unhinged, and so on, but they still won’t say which Labour person said he is on drugs.

Conclusion. Ass usual the trolls and their masters are lying pieces of shit, who would kill there own grannies if they thought it would give them and edge, while all the time pretending they are deeply moral family people who despise the smearing of politicians.

As for the BBC it has been obvious to even the most dimist of dimwits that the BBC has become very right wing. When you hand over your political editorship to a former member of the Conservative party. Your main political daytime show is fronted by a well know right wing Thatcher supporter the idea that you are not biased against the left is ridiculous.

Attention Lefty Bloggers!

This is how it’s done: post threads about stories you don’t like and then swear at all your commenters!

Because that Fawkes bloke abuses his commenters all the time, doesn’t he!

Let’s show these Tory Trolls what a real debate is all about…

12. David O'Keefe

Any chance of you taking some responsibilty for all this Staines? Or is your next excuse “I was very, very, very drunk”

On one level Guido is quite right. It’s not about him. His is a playpen where adolescent boys (of all ages) can draw pictures of willies on the PM’s face as and when the mood takes them. In and of itself it’s quite harmless. What is corrosive is the fact that the idler breed of reporter apparently regards reading this nonsense as a sufficient foundation for a story. In recent weeks we’ve therefore we’ve seen newspapers report that Jacqui Smith will be the subject of a private prosecution, that Nadine Dorries is suing Damien McBride and Derek Draper, and the Prime Minister is on happy pills. All bollocks of course as a moment’s thought would tell you, but the papers have licence to print this drivel because they saw it on Guido. Attacking Guido for the credulity of his audience is to miss the point.

Jimmy is right but it is exactly the way the American right wing do it.

Bullshit is placed on rightwing blogs, and the MSM, to try to avoud the charge of being too libera,l repeats bullshit, and then says it is nothing to do with us we just report what the blogs are saying.

But of course they never repeat what is being put on the left wing blogs because they never read them.

15. The Grim Reaper

There are a few things which should be part of an initiation ceremony for everyone who wants to read or comment on political blogs and websites. First, it should be compulsory for you to upset Iain Dale on his blog so that he has a temper tantrum and asks whether you are mad. It’s what he did to me a few months back. Next, you need to be sworn at by Sunny Hundal a good few times – I’m still waiting for him to call me a cunt personally. :-p

This story is going to run and run. It also proves that old saying – a lie can get halfway round the world before the truth even gets its boots on – is more relevant than ever.

Actually Jimmy, all those cases, and a few more you don’t know about are as they say in process. They are tediously slow to get going.

I have not recused myself in anyway from the view that Gordon is a weirdo. Nor do I see any evidence to the contrary. Incidentally I think Marr had more than just an internet rumour to go on.

David, take responsibility for what? Advancing the proposition that Gordon is a weirdo? If I could charge a penny for the use of the idea I’d make a fortune.

“They are tediously slow to get going.”

No they’re not.

So is Brown taking drugs for a mental condition or not?

That’s the story here.

And if anyone thinks taking medication for a mental condition is the same as NOT having a mental illness in the first place, they have an entirely unfounded faith in pharmacology.

There are NO magic bullets.

Managing a condition is not the same as not having a condition.

If Brown has a mental illness we should know about it, we should know what he is doing about it and we should be allowed to decide ourselves if he is up for the job, we should not have his lackeys deciding for us what we need to know.

Jimmy they are, given I have put up most of the money for the Jacqui prosecution so far, I know something of how it is progressing. It will take a lot longer to prosecute.

I have spent far too much of my life in litigation battles, they are never quickly resolved.

20. Mon amor Mon amine

What is the big fuss?

There are countless academic studies that show political leaders owe their positions to psychotic tendencies.

They may not be quickly resolved but they get going quickly enough.

Is the Smith prosecution expected to be as slow as the Lord Levy one?

Jimmy you have repeated this Levy line for years. I canvassed support for a private prosecution, I did not solicit a penny for it. When counsel for the CPS gave his reasoning for not proceeding I was in the room. He was a respected silk, it became clear that we would face too great difficulties. So a prosecution was never proceeded with, solicitors were never instructed, funds were never raised.

Nadine has really instructed solicitors, Sunlight has also instructed solicitors and an evidence gathering process is under way. Lets see where the evidence takes us.

I have had a lot of criticism for being a negativist “bloggertarian” and even a nihilist, yet when I go and do something constructive, like setting up Sunlight as a vehicle to do things, rather than just blog about them, all you do is whinge.

I quite like your dry humour and you are welcome in my comments among the window lickers but this “it is all imaginary” stuff is a little tedious.

23. David O'Keefe

Staines, your Brown is bonkers post was posted on the 25th August 2008. The blogpost that claimed Brown was on anti-depressants was posted on the 4th September 2009.

It makes a mockery of your claims that it was a Lib Dem/Green voting blogger and the independent. Its your responsibility, you didn’t advance a proposition, you created a proposition that you can’t back up; but then again I am waiting for you to back up your claim that Downing street are out to get Dale, you said you could, but I am still waiting.

Dorries was claiming to have instructed solicitors back in April. All went quiet until last month when you delivered what you initially pretended was a writ as part of a stunt which would hardly have been helpful to her had any proceedings been seriously intended. I don’t believe for a second that anything will come of this.

I’m not sure in what sense “sunlight” is said to be constructive, as it seems designed largely to push the same sullen nihilsim. Once a week a letter gets sent off regurgitating something from the papers. The site appears to gauge its success by the number of press mentions it gets. Apart from the “Shadow Kelly” report (whicj alone amonst the contents at least appears to have involved some thought and effort) there is nothing else there. It set out to raise 100k to prosecute Smith. Your promise to post the financials is not honoured but based on what is published it is clearly failing to raise the money necessary. Given this, and that there are far clearer cases than Smith’s it is hard to avoid the conclusion that she was chosen because she is defending a Labour marginal and the real intent is to fund a stunt around election time, possibly laying an information which you can then bleat about the CPS stomping on.

Thank you for the compliment btw. In the same spirit, what you have achieved is genuinely impressive (if slightly mystifying). I don’t intend to come across as censorious, and if your aim is to be the new Rocky Ryan then fair enough. It’s a shame the platform you have can’t be put to more constructive use.

I’m sure the “Is Brown Bonkers?” / Prime Mentalist meme(s) long belong to me, but this specific allegation is not mine. You might think that nuancing, you might think that I helped set the climate. You might think I am unfair and unbalanced.

Nevertheless the specific proposition that the Prime Mentalist takes MAOIs was not originated by me. That comes from elsewhere. That is the fact of the matter. Suggest you read what John Ward himself has said.

Just to be crystal clear and for the avoidance of doubt, I do think Gordon Brown is a weirdo.

Good night.

“the specific proposition that the Prime Mentalist takes MAOIs was not originated by me”

So what?

27. David O'Keefe

I did and he has been honest and admitted that he has no proof. Do you have proof that there is a Downing Street conspiracy against Iain Dale? You made the claim, now back it up. Or were you lying when you claimed that you had evidence?

D O K, am going to bed so this is going to have really be the last.

Both Dale and I have had some stuff back from our F o I, McBride in his recent interview with the Guardian admits he targeted me and Dale and he thinks that is why he was targeted back.

He is half right – if he had not targeted me I am sure that I would never have got a whistleblower to cough.

I have my reasons for not publishing (beyond just winding up someone in Guildford). I did say I would publish in the heat of the moment on the Daily Politics, I then changed my plan. Tough. No doubt you will just call me a liar. Oh well, how will I sleep…

This is probably a losing battle, but I’ve been through this thread and the last to remove some of the more obvious breaches of the comments policy.

@13 jimmy

newspapers report that Jacqui Smith will be the subject of a private prosecution

And you know who is behind that don’t you?

Hint – they employed the Conservative Party Home Office weasel.

And they – apparently – have no connection whatsoever to the Conservative Party. That’s why they are chasing no-one at all about duck islands.

Y’know, I think Brown’s a bit weird as well, but, unless someone can convince me that Blair and Thatcher were just the kind of average guys you’d find working the 9 to 5 and then holding court in the corner of a pub, I’m going to hold that, generally, people who have the drive, guile and deviousness to run countries are a bit odd (even by human standards).

Sunny, IMHO, you’ve rather missed the point. It’s not about whether or not Brown is on medication, it’s about the stigma mental illness still has and the false belief that depression automatically reduces competence. Clinical depression in politicians, as in the general population, is not new, not unusual and does not equate to incompetence.
Politicising health issues of public figures is a pretty scummy way to behave, from left and right alike, and does not really help lift the stigma of illness.

Another thing to bear in mind, and a similar lost point to the above, is that the media covering this, both new and old, consists of people with no qualifications or experience in neuroscience, mental health, pharmacology or any related discipline. By and large they lack the capacity to report on mental health issues with anything but a sketchy lay understanding. Proper experts would be unlikely to comment on the mental health of a public figure because their professional ethics forbid it and/or that they lack access to all the facts. Something that should be borne in mind when reading speculation from all political sides on this.

Still it’s easier to play politics and continue playground grudges rather than act like grownups.

On the day of Gordon’s Conference speech, with Labour polling behind the Lib Dems, isn’t this whole attempt to whip up faux-outrage a bit of a waste of time?

I hope Brown’s taken something today to pep him up!

I hear he will try and steal the Tories clothes on law and order. ‘Tough on crime, tough on criminals’ perhaps??

This is probably a losing battle, but I’ve been through this thread and the last to remove some of the more obvious breaches of the comments policy.

Don, what can I say? You’re a saint, mate.

Thank God I didn’t have to read them…………

“Channel 4 News today exposed this: The man whose blog carried allegations that Prime Minister Gordon Brown was taking anti-depressants has told Channel 4 News he has no proof to support the story.”

Ha, nice try Sunny – but if you read what John said on his blog, you would know that he never claimed to have any proof. He merely saw a pattern of behaviour / diet that was consistent with taking anti-depressants. At no point did he suggest categorically that Brown was on anti-depressants, so this Channel 4 nonsense is just a red herring.

Another important point that has been missed. There are plenty of good reasons to criticise Gordon Brown, and I certainly won’t be voting for him. The smears are crowding out discussion about real issues. I don’t think that that is an accident.

Even though one of my comments was deleted you did an admirable job of cleaning up after us…

I guess the question is, do you think a political figure taking medication is a political story. I don’t – in fact I rather like the line someone used in the other thread “are you eating carrots Prime Minister?”.

Marr can ask what questions he likes. I just won’t be listening in future. But then I long gave up hope of journalists asking questions that challenge politicians rather than fuel faux outrage.

There’s a rather bigger story about people’s attitudes in the media and politics to mental illness and social awkwardness, they seem to be stuck in the dark ages.

Letters Fron A Tory,

Do you think Sunny wanted a real story, or just an excuse to swear at some Conservative supporters?

I must say, one just doesn’t encounter that kind of adolescent behaviour towards commenters on other political blogs. I think Sunny could be described as ‘special’ himself.

You do wonder if the Tories have been taking lessons from their Republican friends (of course they’ll deny it & it may not actually come from CCHQ if they’re half smart). Anyway, the tactic is to get some nasty rumour going in the blogosphere & then get the mainstream media to pick it up & start a ‘serious’ discussion on the subject.

I was on the treadmill in the gym last night, when the First Dark Lord came on Sky News on the screen in front of me.

As I sensibly had the Rocky soundtrack (it’s a great motivator!) playing in my ears rather than listen to the King of Slither’s venomous outpourings, I was struck by how similar Baron Bielzebub would look to a certain Central European leader c. 1939 – 45 if only he had a small black moustache.

Perhaps the original German soundtrack could be dubbed over the ignoble Lord’s speech?

Sunny’s statement ” These smears would make Damian McBride proud” only support’s the story that DM tried to smear the wife of Tory politician rgearding her mental health. The fact that DM worked in an office run by G Brown makes him responsible . After Henry 2 said ” Who will rid me of this turbulent priest ” resulted in T a Beckett’s murder , leaders are responsible, if their statements lead their subordinates to take unacceptable actions.

When an intruder broke into the Queen’s bedroom, Whitelaw, as Home Secretary offered his resignation. Due to the invasion of the Falklands ,Carrington as Foreign Secretary resigned as a matter of principle and his integrity only increased. Both Carrington and Whitelaw were straightforward brave soldiers ( both had won the MC in Normandy) whose integrity and ability to cope in stressful situations were never questioned.

Brown has spent the last 12 years undermining his own colleagues, remember Milburn, Milliband and Blair all had unfavourable leaks made against them.
I would suggest the reason why so many people latched on to Ward’s comments is that Brown’s behaviour has been so unpleasant, to so many people,for so long; especially his temper tantrums, that people give credence to the rumour mill.
If someone had tried to smear Churchill with the accusation of physical or moral cowardice during WW2 it would have been laughed out of court. Why , because Churchill’s physical and moral courage were beyond question.

As M Twain said ” A man who has reputation for getting up at dawn can afford to get up at miday”.

Brown’s actions and his present appearance over the last 12 make it believable he could be on anti-depressants. When Brown has needed to to draw upon his reputation, he has found he is overdrawn and the bank of public opinion will not extend his overdraft.

Is it true that Mandelson was on ‘happy pills’ when he made his speech to conference yesterday?
It would explain his coquettishness


I think that sums it up perfectly!

It didn’t help that Brown didn’t actually answer the question!

Brown has spent the last 12 years undermining his own colleagues, remember Milburn, Milliband and Blair all had unfavourable leaks made against them.

Remember Westland? Or the “semi-detached” John Biffen? Politicians leak against their colleagues when it suits – it’s not nice, but it’s what they do.

@24 Jimmy

I’ve said before that I’d be happy to complain about the solicitor involved in the Dorries Affair. There was some confusion as to whether anyone actually had been instructed (not least because the whole episode has been an unprofessional fiasco which reflects poorly on the profession).

Now it has apparently been confirmed, @22 above, that someone was instructed by Dorries, is anyone any clearer on who it was?

45.Jonnie. Thank you.

47. Sy . The difference for Brown is that he needs people to trust him and people are judging him on the last 12 years of his actions and words.

Murdoch nearly went bust a few years ago. He needed $10M from a mid-western bank. Murdoch spoke with the president who trusted him and lent the $10M. Murdoch was saved. Murdoch had earnt the bank president’s trust because of his succesful business career stretching over 45 years.

What are you on about and where does Murdoch come into it (and come to that since when was (Rupert?) Murdoch saved by a piddling $10m?) I was talking about politicians in general,in particular Margaret Thatcher, who leaked against Michael Heseltine during Westland and whose press secretary called Biffen “semi-detached”, not long before she sacked him.

51. Sy . If a person has a good reputation people will often ignore smears or loaded questions and they can use to ask for favours: they often can obtain the benefit of the doubt. I use the example of Murdoch as a person using his reputation to obtain an important benefit which saved his company . When T Blair said ” Trust me , I am straightforward type of guy” or words to that effect people did trust him which meant they gave him the benefit of the doubt; which saved is political bacon. Brown is now in the opposite position to Blair in his early days, any doubt and people distrust him.

Thatcher gradually lost the good will ofher colleagues, in part , because of the way she treated them, such that by 1988-89, they were looking for reasons to get rid of her: so Brown in certain ways is in a similar position. The saying of “go when people still want you and do not look back ” is relevant for any person who needs the support of people to do their job effectively.

Charlie, you appear to be an idiot. I apologise for taking up your time.

Apart from anything else Charlie must live in a parallel universe if he think Rupert Murdoch has a good reputation. This is the man responsible for the gruesome smear machine Fox ‘News’ which I suspect his son wants to bring to the UK.

53. Henry .Murdoch had a good business repuation, that was why he was lent the $10M – the banker had faith he would get his money back. I am not talking about the reputation of his media empire, especially Fox news which I consider is biased towards the extreme elements of the Republican Party.

Trust me Charlie, banks only lend you money unless you can can give them security, lots of it. Obviously, they usually make sure that you’re not an absolute crook, though they’re not especially fussy.

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