Much has been made in today’s papers of Hazel Blears’ ‘subtle’ comeback to Gordon Brown - wearing a brooch emblazoned with the words ‘rocking the boat’ as her resignation became public. (Presumably, she couldn’t find her “Screw you Gordon” badge that morning.)
Yet bizarrely, Downing Street has been accused of mounting a Damian McBride-style ‘dirty tricks’ campaign against Blears.
Leaked details that Blears owed capital gains tax on two taxpayer subsidised properties (not one, as previously thought) could only have come from inside government, it’s been claimed. “It’s a McBride style dirty trick,” an unnamed minister told the Guardian.
Well, hang on a minute. Presuming this information was leaked by the government, it’s still a world away from McBride’s gutter politics.
Leaks are an inevitable part of the rough and tumble of everyday politics.
But let’s compare like with like.
McBridegate: Damian McBride advocated planting rumours that were a) completely false, b) massively offensive to the slurred individuals and their families, and c) based on personality, not policy.
Hazelgate: consisted of leaked details that a Minister owed a substantial amount of capital gains tax, information which is a) indisputably true, b) of some public interest and c) was going to be published anyway.
Of course if the government did leak the information, its motives were obviously political - to blunt the edge of Blears’ resignation - rather than moral.
But if you time your resignation to purposely cause maximum political damage, you can hardly complain if the facts are then used against you.
Nevertheless, the unnamed minister in the Guardian goes on to complain: "It's very provocative. It's also a threat – it's saying to every minister thinking of making a move, 'We have your expenses.'"
Still, that shouldn’t be a concern - providing you were honest when it came to claiming expenses (a tall order, I know).