It seems that Damian McBride has been exposed as the source of a number of e-mails proposing attacks on prominent Conservatives using false allegations in an attempt to discredit them.
One should set aside the allegations themselves for the time being, although they demonstrate a particularly New Labour trend towards slur and innuendo that has become more and more pronounced as the wheels have fallen off of the 'project'. 'If in doubt, use leaks and friendly journalists to discredit those attacking you' appears to be the motto.
However, as a public sector bureaucrat, my concern relates to the use of a civil servant to attack political opponents. The whole point of civil servants is to provide apolitical support, leaving the grubby art of politics to the political professionals. And that's where the system of Special Advisors creates a massive problem.
You and I pay for Special Advisors through our taxes, in the same way that you graciously pay my salary. I am covered by the Civil Service Code, which explains what I may or may not do in the course of my duties, especially in terms of the boundary between political and administrative. If I cross that boundary, I can be disciplined, by sanctions up to and including loss of position and, if memory serves, pension.
It seems clear that young McBride has crossed that boundary and then some. Under normal circumstances, disciplinary action should follow. Something tells me that a mere reprimand will be meted out, which tells me just how little Labour politicians understand how the public sector should operate.
I fear that they see us as a reservoir of votes, a client group who rely on the Labour Party to build and sustain a bureaucracy large enough to keep them all in a job. To some extent, this is true, although less so than it was. Labour have done little for job security in London and the South East, and are only to happy to enmesh us in targets and strategies, instead of allowing us to adapt to the needs of those we serve.
They also seem to think that we have a duty of loyalty, come what may. I disagree. We have a duty to avoid disloyalty, a responsibility to deliver those policies and strategies devised by our political masters regardless of their origin, Conservative or Labour, Liberal Democrat or Plaid Cymru. We must ensure that the law of the land is upheld, and make it as easy as possible for those who wish to comply.
It is high time, therefore, that the place of Special Advisors within the structure of government is made abundantly clear. Either they are civil servants, prevented from taking part in partisan politics, or they are not civil servants and their salaries are paid by politicians. If the latter route is chosen, then they're free to behave in a partisan manner.
It shouldn't be that difficult for an intelligent person to see the significance of this, but Damian McBride has proved that some people just won't get it...