Books

How Newspaper Book Serialisations Work

22 Sep 2013 at 14:18

Many people don’t seem to understand how newspaper book serialisations work, so let me try to explode a few of the hoary old myths that have been regurgitated in the last few days. Even journalists from newspapers which bid for the Damian McBride serialisation don’t seem to get it, as I will explain in a moment by fisking The Guardian’s Lisa O’Carroll’s bizarre piece yesterday.

For publishers newspaper serialisations are a double edged sword. If a newspaper is allowed to serialise too much of the book, it can seriously impact on book sales. So there is always a word limit agreed in the contract. In the Mcbride book, if my memory serves me correctly, the Mail is allowed to serialise 15,000 words out of the total word count of 140,000 (it could be 20,000, but I haven’t got the document to hand). Even so, I am sure there will be many people who think they don’t need to read the book because of the massive coverage, not just in the Mail but elsewhere. To compensate for this, the publisher takes a cut from the serialisation fee. Depending on the book and the context the cut is anything from 10% to 50%, although the norm is 10-20%. The rest goes to the author.

So how does a newspaper come to serialise a book? What’s the process? For a normal political book, up until recently there were only really three players – the Mail, Mail on Sunday and the Sunday Times. Most of the others had pulled out of the serial market altogether or would only do one or two books a year. Recently though, The Times, Telegraph Sunday Telegraph and The Guardian have reentered the serial market. When I first started publishing books in 1998 it was commonplace to secure high five figure serial deals. Even 8 years ago quite a few books got six figure sums. Nowadays only ex Prime Ministers or the likes of Peter Mandelson command such sums. Most book serialisations go for a fraction of what they would have done some years ago. Indeed, I wonder whether we are heading towards a situation where newspapers stop paying for book deals and take the view that newspapers in other countries do: “Why should I pay for something which is PR for the book?” I don’t see that happening here while we have seven or eight national newspapers which compete with each other for attention. If you’re a low ranking Cabinet Minister who has written memoirs you can expect £5-15,000 for a book deal. Higher profile politicians with some good revelations will command more, but they are few and far between nowadays. The problem is that David Blunkett broke the serial market. Being a canny operator he retained serial rights for himself when he published his diaries back in 2006. So he trousered a £400,000 advance from Bloomsbury, who say this as the book that would establish themselves in the political memoir market, but he also got £250,000 from The Times (I think) for the serialisation. I am told they bought it sight unseen. It was a complete turkey. There was little in it, and it sold only around 5,000 copies. Newspaper editors looked at this deal and decided ‘never again’. That is not to say that for the right book a newspaper won’t try to snap it up before it is even written. On the McBride book I had two pre-emptive offers but I decided to keep our powder dry. I only ever consider a pre-emptive offer if I need it to help my bump up the advance to the author. We are not a big company and can’t afford to compete with the likes of HarperCollins, Penguin or RandomHouse, so an early tie-up with a newspaper can enable us to punch above our weight. We don’t do this often, but it has been known.

We normally talk to all the papers every six months and tell them what we have coming up in our publishing schedule. They then indicate which titles they might be interested in seeing with a view to bidding. Once we have an edited manuscript we get them to sign a Non Disclosure Agreement before releasing the document to them to evaluate. The biggest nightmare for a publisher is a leak. For really big titles we don’t even give them the manuscript. For the McBride book. where we had 7 or 8 papers interested. we asked them to send a representative to come to our office for two hours to read the manuscript. They weren’t allowed to make notes, they weren’t allowed to have a phone. A Biteback member of staff sat there like an exam invigilator. One newspaper complained that we couldn’t possibly ask their political editor to agree to those conditions. Did we have no trust or respect? Don’t bid then, I said. We just couldn’t afford to take any risk. Needless to say, they compiled and did indeed bid.

Then comes the bidding process. Normally you conduct an auction. It usually starts very low. It continues until there is only one bidder left. I hate the process, mainly because at the end of it the losing bidders usually feel hard done by. Occasionally I adopt a different method, which I call the “Final, Sealed bid” method. This is where each newspaper is allowed one bid, and that’s it. There is no second round. Newspapers bid the highest they are prepared to go. This is risky for a publisher because usually you get a higher price by using the competitive bid mechanism. Anyway, I decided that as there were 7 newspapers involved the best and fairest way to conduct the bidding on the McBride book was to get them to bid once and once only by a Friday 12 noon deadline. I also decided not to conduct the bid process myself, partly because I was too close to one or two of the journalists involved and wanted to ensure that the process was 100% trustworthy on both sides. We explained this process to all involved, but despite that I had two calls from newspapers seeking to circumvent it. I made very clear that wasn’t going to happen.

I can’t go into the financials here, because I don’t see it as anyone’s business except for the author, the publisher and the newspaper concerned. The same applies to questions as to whether the author takes the money or gives it away.

I will say this, though. When we sign a contract with an author, we acquire the rights to sell the book for serialisation. In theory the author could ask for a clause to be inserted saying we can’t sell the serial rights to a particular newspaper, but in publishing 350 books or so, it is something an author has never requested. But this is an important thing to remember – it is the publisher who acquires the rights from the author to sell the newspaper serialisation. So to those who complain that Damian McBride sold his soul to the Mail, they are wrong. He didn’t. Having said that, I make it appoint of consulting with the author right the way through the process. But in the end the decision is the publisher’s not the author’s. Only once have I ever had a shouting match with an author who decided that a particular newspaper serialisation would ruin his reputation. Luckily his agent agreed with me and eventually he came to see the light. So it was Biteback who agreed the deal with the Daily Mail, and quite right too.

Chris Mullin hated the fact that his diaries were sold by Profile Books to the Mail on Sunday but they were perfectly within their rights to do it. Peter Hain had a right old go at Damian McBride for selling his book to the Mail on This Week on Thursday night. I sat on my sofa laughing heartily, remembering the fact that Peter Hain’s own memoirs OUTSIDE IN were sold to the Murdoch-owned Sunday Times. I know because I am his publisher and I did the deal. [this is updated – I had thought it was the Mail on Sunday earlier]

But it is also the publisher’s responsibility to protect the author’s interests. In most cases we ask for copy approval. This means that the newspaper has to show us the copy they intend to print before it actually goes to print. This allows us and the author to query how the story has been presented. On rare occasions you can also ask for headline approval, but this is not often given. The reason for copy approval is because sometimes newspapers don’t quote the exact copy in the book – they adapt it. This is done for perfectly legitimate reasons, but the contract states that it must be a true reflection of the book. If you are reducing a 5,000 word story to 500 words there can inevitably be difficulties. This is where copy approval becomes relevant. However, it is very rare that the publisher or author asks for anything to be changed. This process happened with Peter Hain’s book and so it has with Damian’s. The Mail handled it brilliantly and so far as I am aware, not a word has been changed.

Let’s move on to THIS ARTICLE in yesterday’s Guardian by Lisa O’Carroll. I got an email from Lisa on Thursday. Here’s how the email exchange went…

Lisa: Hi Iain, Just read your blog – I have to follow up A Campbell’s stuff on Twitter and wanted to chat to you about book deal serialisation on or off record. Could you give me a buzz?
Iain: Sorry, no, you really don’t have to follow up Alastair’s shit-stirring. It is none of anyone’s business. If The Guardian had won the serialisation would you expect me to reveal details to other newspapers? No, thought not. There’s your answer!
Lisa: Ok, I’m told that Associated paid £115 or so….
Iain: Shows how wrong you can be, doesn’t it!
Lisa: Well I wouldn’t know that would I?
Iain: Exactly. Just as it should be :).
Lisa: Well I’m writing a story saying that he got over £100,000. Speak now if you care to…otherwise I’ll take your arrows as intended x:)
Iain: It’s a free country :). But commercial details like that are between an author and a publisher. I know that sounds po-faced, but when you write your own bestselling book I doubt you’d want your publisher to bandy about figures would you? x
Lisa: These things always have a habit of coming out…(I mean figures, as opposed to my best selling book, which also will never make it on to the shelves…)
But am dying to read McBride’s. Loved the stuff in the Mail today and hear it’s a very belter of a read.
Over and out

All very amicable, but there is no way I was going to, or ever will, give out commercial details like this either on or off the record. So let’s take a look at what Lisa actually wrote.

It is believed that the Daily Mail easily outbid the competition with its six-figure offers, with five-figure sums coming in from rivals including Associated Newspaper sister title the Mail on Sunday, understood to have come closest with an offer less than £100,000. A source said the Mail may have bid up to £150,000. The Sun is believed to have offered about £50,000, the Daily Telegraph offered more than £50,000, while the Guardian bid less than £10,000. Newspapers were asked to submit blind bids for the book after Dale sealed the rights to publish in March this year. It is believed that the Mail’s bid was increased significantly after it emerged that the Mail on Sunday was a serious player in the race.

In those 122 words there are at least four factual errors. Newspapers were not asked to bid blind, they all read the manuscript. They knew what they were bidding for. I would have happily confirmed that detail to Lisa had she asked. Virtually all the figures she quotes are fantasy. Get better sources Lisa!

I think the Mail have handled this serialisation brilliantly and responsibly. Had the Mail on Sunday, Times/Sunday Times, Telegraph/Sunday Telegraph won, I am sure they would have done so too. I understand why partisan Labour figures are furious at the timing of the book. No political party likes to have their conference overshadowed like this, but I have a responsibility to publish books when they will sell best. Party conference time is the usual time to publish books like this and had Macmillan, Penguin or Random House published it, I am 100% sure they would have made the same decision. Yes, it is about money. Yes it is about making a profit and I am happy to say that. I employ 14 people. it’s books like this that keep them in jobs and enable us to publish other political books which barely wash their faces financially. So if people want to shoot any messenger for the timing or method of this serialistion, fire the arrows in my direction, not Damian’s.

And finally. Before anyone accuses me of any political motivation, save your breath. If I had got Andy Coulson’s book (and I hope to!) I would also have published that on the eve of a Tory conference. And so would anyone else with an ounce of publishing self-respect.

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Why Is Alastair Campbell so Keen to Trash Damian McBride's Book?

21 Sep 2013 at 22:03

You know, the most amusing thing about the last 48 hours or so has been the emergence of Alastair Campbell as spinner-in-chief against Damian McBride. It’s most odd because most of the things Damian writes about in his book confirm all the things that Alastair says in his diaries (of which I am a massive fan). In fact, before I go on, let me say that I really like Alastair and this blogpost is not intended to be an attack on him. But he has attacked the book and I will damn well defend myself, my company who published it, and my author who has written what I believe is one of the political books of the year. So here goes.

In an article in today’s Guardian he lays into Damian and suggests that the book will be a massive flop. Well, everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I would say that a book which reaches Number 6 in the Amazon Hot 100 5 days ahead of publication won’t do too badly. Our Politicos.co.uk and Biteback sites have taken several hundred orders (it’s cheaper than Amazon’s price) and on Wednesday it will be in all Waterstone’s stores and hundreds of independent bookshops. This is what Alastair says in The Guardian…

Campbell said he believed that McBride’s book, Power Trip, would sell no more than 5,000 copies.

Well, according to Bookscan, this is what the three volumes of Alastair’s diaries have sold…

Alastair Campbell Diaries Volume I: Prelude to Power – 9,773 copies in HB
Alastair Campbell Diaries Volume II: Burden of Power – 2,803 copies in HB
Alastair Campbell Diaries Volume III: Power and the People – 1,739 in HB

Alastair points out on Twitter that perhaps the best comparison would be with The Blair Years, which sold massive amounts, although I haven’t got the actual figure. That was the volume which left out any embarrassing bits for Labour. It was fascinating stuff, nevertheless, but as a reader I felt rather cheated that the controversial bits had been omitted.

His main beef with Damian’s book is that we sold the serial to the Daily Mail and that it is being published to coincide with Labour’s conference. Like Tessa Jowell, he seems to think Damian owes something to Labour. I cannot understand why. Damian was a civil servant before becoming a Labour employee. When he resigned he was unceremoniously spat out and dropped by the Labour hierarchy. Ed Balls, so far as I know, was the only one to show Damian the milk of human kindness.

The fact is that most political memoirs are published to coincide with party conferences. There’s no conspiracy. I publish books when I think they will get most publicity and most sales. It would be a bit odd for a publisher not to. Alastair says he is not going to read Damian’s book. That’s a shame, because whatever he thinks of him personally, he would find it a truly fascinating political narrative. It’s a book which really does tell what it’s like to be, as Richard Nixon might say, ‘in the arena’. It will shock, it will horrify, it certainly plays into the hands of those who think that all politics is visceral. But above all it is totally honest. And I think that is what will come through when the book reviews start to be written.

I have no idea how Damian’s book will sell. Serialisations can often kill book sales if people think they have read it all in the newspaper. However, in this case the Mail are printing 15,000 words of a book which contains 140,000 words. But I am optimistic. Political memoirs rarely sell more than a few thousand copies, but this is so much more than a political memoir. We’ll see if that message gets through.

Tomorrow I’ll write a post explaining how newspaper serialisations work, because there seems to be a lot of misunderstanding about who controls what. And I will also tell the truth behind this ridiculous article from The Guardian. They reckon they know the ins and outs of how I sold the serialisation for Damian’s book. They really don’t, as will become clear tomorrow.

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ConservativeHome Diary Week 23: Bonking LibDems & Their Leaks

20 Sep 2013 at 15:38

The poor old LibDems suffered from two rather embarrassing email incidents during their conference. The first was when a press officer sent their entire “Lines to Take” to the media instead of their MPs. MPs and ministers were given a checklist of five things to mention in every radio. “We are a party in confident mood” and “We are the only party which can bring about a strong economt and a fair society” were two of the less memorable mantras the politicos were supposed to spin to a supplicant media. Oh dear. I decided to get this out of the way early in my interview with the chirpy Tim Farron by just asking if he agreed with all of them. The second disaster to strike the LibDem press office was when an inexperienced press officer copied and pasted the wrong bit of a document into a press release, thereby setting a hare running that the LibDems regarded anyone earning more than £50,000 a year as wealthy, and that they would face big tax rises if the LibDems had their way. Cue media hysteria and another story which had to be extinguished as quickly as possible.

There are a couple of explanations for these cock-ups by the LibDem media team. Firstly, apart from the West Ham-supporting Head of Media Phil Reilly (naturally one of the good guys) not a single LibDem press officer has been working for the party for more than eight months. But I wonder if tiredness could be the issue. The entire LibDem front bench and team of special advisers were booked into rooms on the 15th floor of the Crowne Plaza hotel in Glasgow, but it appears they didn’t get much sleep. The exertions of a bonking couple in one of the rooms kept the entire floor awake for most of Monday night. They were apparently “at it” for several hours, and the identity of the couple caused much speculation the next morning. Your humble servant was lucky enough to be present (while waiting to interview the Cleggmeister) when a rather ashen-faced young man emerged from the room looking somewhat dishevelled. Discretion prevents me from identifying the poor bugger. But he did have a smile on his face. I’m afraid I ducked out of asking the Deputy Prime Minister whether he got a full eight hours. Of sleep, that is.


“Disgraceful.” “I’ve been totally misrepresented,” spluttered a clearly rather angry Paddy Ashdown about an Observer piece last Sunday. So it was with a degree of incredulity that while I was waiting to interview Nick Clegg I spied Ashdown emerging from a lift with The Observer’s Andrew Rawnsley. Furthermore, the two of them were laughing and joking as they disappeared into Ashdown’s room. He’s clearly a forgiving sort. Half an hour earlier, I had been told he wasn’t doing any more media interviews. Rawnsley’s charms were clearly more alluring than my own!


Wandering around the appallingly depressing conference centre in Glasgow, it seemed I was the most popular man in the building. One after another journalists came up to me, slapped me on the shoulder and engaged me in conversation. But after the initial pleasantries, it became clear they had only one thing on their minds. “So, Iain, the Damian McBride book…. What’s in it, then?” They must think I was born yesterday. Luckily, I was able to tell them that I genuinely didn’t know when the newspaper serialisation of the book was commencing. I’m pretty sure they all thought I was spinning them a line, but I wasn’t. They won’t have long to wait. Have you bought your Daily Mail today?


The LibDem big idea on free school meals isn’t the vote-winner Nick Clegg thinks it is. When we covered it on my radio show, virtually everyone who got in touch with the programme was against it on the basis that we haven’t got the money, many councils do it already, or isn’t that what Child Benefit is supposed to be used for. There are some red faces among Southwark LibDems who, when it was proposed by the ruling Labour group, spoke out against it. I’m sure they now think it is an even better idea than putting 5p on plastic bags, an idea David Laws assures me is the most popular policy the LibDems have put forward since, er, the abolition of tuition fees. OK, I made that last bit up, but he insists people love the idea. I’m not so sure.


One man who is spitting tacks about the school dinners idea is George Osborne. Why? Because the Tories had to accept it as a trade-off to get through the marriage tax allowance. I’m told George Osborne is not exactly a fan of this policy, which is as dear to the authoritarian right as mother’s milk. I have never understood why. Being in favour of marriage is surely like being in favour of motherhood and apple pie. We all are, but should it be rewarded by a £3 a week tax break, especially in difficult economic times? I think not. I’m just waiting for which dumbass Tory right winger will table an amendment saying that people in civil partnerships shouldn’t get it as they’re not really married.


Next year’s LibDem conference will also be in Glasgow, which fills most of us with complete dread. I’ve got nothing against Glasgow. In fact I quite like it, but the conference centre is just awful. A modern architectural monstrosity which has all the atmosphere of a morgue. Yes, cue the easy joke about the LibDems being in their death throes, but it’s not easy to comprehend why they want to come back so quickly. Apparently they were supposed to be in Liverpool, but once Alex Salmond set September 18 2014 as the date for the Scottish referendum, they decided they had to avoid a clash. As a consequence, for the first time, the LibDem conference will take place after the Tories. But will that mean that Parliament returns a week later than normal? I suspect so. I wonder if Nick Clegg cleared that with Mr Speaker.


One of the LibDem talking points at their conference was the fact that Norman Lamb, the North Norfolk MP, is sporting a smart new haircut. Gone is the gelled flicked up hair at the front. Instead it’s all now slicked back. “Is this the start of a leadership bid?” wondered some commentators. The truth is a little more prosaic. I am given to understand that Norman’s usual hairdresser has returned to Lithuania, so his wife decided to attend to the Lamb thatch. A lesson for us all.


I have a column in the gay lifestyle magazine Attitude, and in this month’s issue I have written a light piece about why gay people have the reputation for liking a certain type of music. I’m sure Tory MP Nick de Bois will be hugely impressed that he gets an honourable mention. But I won’t spoil his fun by revealing the context. He will have to buy a copy! Or more likely get one of his staff to!

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Damian McBride, Me and His Brilliant Book

20 Sep 2013 at 08:04

Four years ago I appeared on the Today Programme talking about Carol Thatcher and her use of the word ‘gollywog’. She had just been fired from the ‘One Show’ for having the temerity to liken someone’s hair to that of a ‘gollywog’. This is what I wrote on my blog at the time…

Chris Moyles is Radio 1’s star DJ. Two years ago he was involved, on air, in an incident which led to him being accused of racism. Halle Berry, no less, felt that he was indeed being racist. In December 2008 he faced another allegation, after he asserted that “Polish women make good prostitutes”. On neither occasion did the BBC fire him, let alone discipline him or even make him apologise. On both occasions the BBC said he was “poking fun”. Today, despite issuing a full apology, Carol Thatcher was fired by the BBC – not disciplined, but fired – from the One Show, after she likened a tennis player’s hair to that of a golliwog. It was a jokey remark made off air in the Green Room. The logic of the BBC’s argument is that the very mention of the word ‘golliwog’ is considered racist. Utterly preposterous. Whatever Carol Thatcher said off air should not have been made public by the BBC. By firing her in this manner and allowing all this to enter the public domain, they have branded her a racist when she is patently nothing of the sort. When dealing with the BBC, having the surname of Thatcher is not an advantage. However, if you are a fat, loudmouthed git with a surname of Moyles (or Ross, or Brand) you can get away with anything.

At the time, I was one of the country’s three best known bloggers, alongside Guido Fawkes and Tim Montgomerie. Deep inside Downing Street, plans were being hatched to help Derek Draper launch a blog to take on the three of us. The Left had been scratching their heads as to why people on the right dominated the blogosphere. What happened next would have massive consequences for him, his blog and a certain Damian McBride, Gordon Brown’s spin doctor in Number 10. Later that day Draper (who I knew and had advised on how to launch his new site, LabourList) saw an opportunity. He effectively called me a racist for going on the Today Programme and trying to explain why a 55 year old woman might use the word without meaning it to be pejorative. This is what he wrote on the fledgling Labour List…

Ashcroft sock puppet Iain Dale has defended Carol Thatcher and the use of the word “Golliwog”. See, even the nice seeming ones are nasty underneath. On the Today programme he said Adrian Chiles must hear much worse every week. No, Iain, he doesn’t. Because he doesn’t make a habit of hanging out with racist Tories. Until Dale thinks again we are suspending his listing on our blogroll. Come on Iain, do the decent thing and admit you got this wrong.

I reacted in my usually calm and measured manner…

As my readers can imagine, I am truly bovvered. Inconsolable. Bereft. My blog won’t be able to survive without the thirty visitors LabourList has sent its way. Believe me, it’s his site which loses out if I don’t link to it, not t’other way around. And with fewer than a thousand visitors a day, he needs all the links he can get. There’s just one thing that Derek might have to explain. Just where, exactly, have I ever said that the use of the word ‘golliwog’ is acceptable. Not here, and not on the Today Programme. I have indeed tried to explain why the BBC is guilty of hypocrisy and has overreacted, but that is not the same as saying the word is nowadays ‘acceptable’.

And so it went on. I was bloody furious. Someone I had helped get his blog off the ground, and knew reasonably well, had smeared me as condoning racism. I shouldn’t have been surprised by these tactics, but I was. Scroll forward two months, to April 2009, when Guido Fawkes rang me up to tell me that Derek Draper had been acting under orders from Number 10, and Gordon Brown’s chief henchman, Damian McBride. Again, I found it difficult to believe, but Guido said he had the emails to back up the claims and would be publishing them. Wow.

Here’s what I wrote on March 27th 2009…

On the Daily Politics yesterday, Guido Fawkes made an allegation that McBride had given Derek Draper his marching orders on how to trash my reputation as a blogger, and in particular how he should smear me over the Carol Thatcher golliwog remarks. This wasn’t the first time I had heard the allegation made. I intend now to submit an FOI on this subject as I regard it as a hugely serious breach of McBride’s role as a civil servant – paid for by the taxpayer, if indeed it is true. Several people have warned me off doing this. “Let it lie,” they say. One lobby correspondent advised me: “Don’t get on the wrong side of McBride”. I’m afraid they ‘misunderestimate’ me. But I will say this. I hope Guido’s allegations are wrong and that Damian McBride can truthfully tell me that he gave no such advice to Draper either by email or verbally. But if these emails do exist, they will come to light through an FOI request. Someone else said to me that they will just delete the emails, if they exist. I reminded that person that to do so would constitute a criminal offence. It’s the kind of thing a certain Richard Nixon got into rather a lot of trouble for.

UPDATE: Guido has submitted an FOI request. In the absence of a reply from DM, I have followed suit…

Dear Damian,
This is a Subject Access Request made under the provisions of the Data Protection Act (1998).
Please provide me with copies of all emails, letters or other documents referring to either myself or my publication, “Iain Dale’s Diary”. In particular, but not exclusively, the analysis provided by you to Derek Draper and LabourList.org on the afternoon of Friday 13, February 2009.
I have copied this to the Cabinet Office Freedom of Information Unit. If you require payment of a fee please advise by return.
I should remind you that it would be a criminal offence to destroy the information requested. Please confirm receipt of this email.
Kind regards

On 11 April the whole scandal broke when Guido revealed the contents of emails between McBride and Draper. A day later, I wrote a column for the Daily Telegraph on the subject (read it HERE). This is how it ended…

When you’re a leader in trouble you turn to those whose undying loyalty you know you can count on. That’s why Brown was reluctant to let McBride go last September after he had been found briefing against Ruth Kelly. Instead of firing him, he moved him sideways and out of direct contact with the media. But at the same time he brought back his old ally Charlie Whelan.

Whelan is now political officer for the giant Unite union, and he funds Draper’s website. It was he who persuaded Geoffrey Robinson, the co-proprietor of the New Statesman, to dispense with the services of the magazine’s award-winning political editor Martin Bright, who was considered not onside with Brown. Whelan was also copied in on McBride’s emails to Draper as he had agreed to fund the new Red Rag blog which was to play host to the smears about Tory politicians. I suspect there is far more about to emerge about Whelan’s pivotal role at the heart of the Brown empire. If Gordon Brown really wants to bring about a new era at Downing Street, he can do several things – take away Alastair Campbell’s pass which gives him free access to the building; reshuffle Tom Watson out of Number Ten; but most significantly of all, tell Derek Draper his services as editor of LabourList are no longer required. The trouble is, our Prime Minister is wedded to the notion that seeking political conflict and dividing lines is the be all and end all. And he’s incapable of changing.

So McBride had had to quit, not just over these allegations, but also relating to similar ones against Tory MPs, including Nadine Dorries.

Eighteen months later, out of the blue I got an email from Damian apologising for what had happened. That sparked an exchange in which we both buried the hatchet. Then last year we met up for a coffee. Damian had been out of the political world for three years and was working happily for CAFOD. We met in a Costa Coffee near Waterloo. I had heard on the grapevine that Damian was planning to write a book, and I was determined to publish it. We talked it through, what kind of book it would be etc and the ramifications. We both laughed about the irony of me publishing it after all that had happened. He wasn’t totally sure about doing it but to cut a long story short we continued discussions over the last year and in March I announced that Biteback had signed up the book and it is published next week. Judging by the reaction to what Damian writes on his superb blog, it will be a huge hit. One Sunday newspaper journalist who has read it reckons it is the political book of the decade.

Damian has written the book over the last six months. In my 15 years in publishing I can truthfully say it is the cleanest manuscript I have ever read. Very few misspelling, hardly any typos and a beautiful writing style. He has been a model author and an absolute pleasure to work with. He will be denounced for raking over old coals. He will be criticised for taking the Mail’s shilling. Those who denounce him loudest are probably those who dropped him like a stone when he most needed them. I was most amused to see Alastair Campbell ranting away on Twitter last night, proclaiming that he had turned down £1 million from Murdoch. More fool him. In any case, the rights to the serialisation were mine to sell as the publisher. I am bloody proud I got the biggest political serialisation since Mandelson’s memoirs. Seven newspapers were in the bidding and the Mail won. That’s life, Alastair, get over it.

One of my colleagues at Biteback said to me earlier in the week that this was in every possible respect the best book we have ever published. I absolutely agree. It deserves to make the bestsellers lists.

Royalties from sales of the book will be split between Damian McBride’s current employers, CAFOD (the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development), and the appeal by his former employers, Finchley Catholic High School, to build a new sixth form centre.

*Power Trip: A Decade of Policy, Plots and Spin is published on 25 September in hardback. Price: £20.00

You can order a signed copy HERE

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The Revenge of the Orange Bookers

17 Sep 2013 at 20:21

Each year the Telegraph assembles a group of experts to compile a list of the top 50 ranked members of the Liberal Democrats. Meeting this year in the Westminster Intercontinental – the new hangout of choice for politicos – the panel judged the performance of Lib Dem politicians since September 2012.

The Liberal Democrats have proved remarkable disciplined over the last year. There is now no likelihood of any challenge to Nick Clegg’s leadership before the 2015 election, even though his poll ratings remain at rock bottom. Retaining the Eastleigh seat vacated by Chris Huhne helped to steady nerves in February, and although in terms of vote share the local elections in May were the party’s worst ever, the chunks torn out of the Tory vote by Ukip helped to save dozens of Lib Dem councillors their seats. Now, as the party gears up for the general election, Clegg’s increasing readiness to disagree with his Tory ministerial colleagues is proving popular with Lib Dem activists – though whether this will help him convince them to “occupy the centre ground”, as he puts it, remains to be seen.

Two years ago we described the ranking of 2011’s top 50 as “the rise of the Left”. This year a more apposite title could be “the revenge of the Orange Bookers”, as Clegg stays at number one and sees two key allies rise to numbers two and three. Sidekick Danny Alexander, the other Lib Dem member of the Quad which takes the key coalition decisions (it includes Clegg, David Cameron and George Osborne) rises two places to number two, while David Laws, co-editor of the economic liberals’ bible, The Orange Book, the brains behind Cleggism and returnee to ministerial office last year, shoots up to number three, due to his appointment as chair of the key election manifesto group, which – Lib Dems hope – will be writing the negotiating mandate for the next coalition. And straight in at number six is Ryan Coetzee, Clegg’s Director of Strategy and former MP for the South African Democratic Alliance, brought in to apply some polling-evidence rigour to the party’s appeal. No fewer than seven other places are occupied by Clegg staffers.

The main losers are mostly on the Left of the party. Down goes Party President Tim Farron, who annoyed many activists by his failure to back same-sex marriage, and Simon Hughes, conscience of the party, who’s had a quiet year. Also falling is Shirley Williams, gradually edging towards retirement, and rent-a-quotes Matthew Oakeshott – increasingly marginalised – and Evan Harris, who drops out entirely, mostly because of his focus on the Hacked Off campaign at the expense of party rabble-rousing. Down too is Vince Cable, not really on the Left (he was an Orange Booker too), but always willing to criticise his Tory colleagues in public, which scores points with party members, but fails to compensate for his lacklustre ministerial record. Very few now see him as a credible leader-in-waiting.

And yet, being Lib Dems, the awkward squad are still around. Cerebral scientist and Cambridge MP Julian Huppert rises two places thanks to his trenchant defence of civil liberties. Social-liberal thinker Duncan Brack returns to the top 50 as vice chair of the manifesto group – carefully balancing Laws – and Leeds MP Greg Mulholland is a new entry because of his self-appointed role as convenor of the Lib Dem awkward squad in the Commons. Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of the Lib Dems in the Local Government Association, rises 16 places; there may be fewer Lib Dem councillors left after three years of coalition, but they are still hugely important in this most localist of parties. Paddy Ashdown, who climbs to number five thanks to his role as Election Campaign Chair, is hardly a friend to the Tories, though he has always proved loyal to his leader.

Apart from Cable, and Jeremy Browne, who seems to have disappeared without trace inside the Home Office, the Lib Dem ministerial team have remained fairly stable in our rankings over the last 12 months; rising stars include Norman Lamb, who has a unique ability to generate positive news from the Department of Health. The smart money for the next leadership contenders, though, remains on Ed Davey (establishment) versus Tim Farron (grassroots).

The Lib Dems continue to struggle to show much diversity among their leading figures. Only 10 women feature in the 50 – actually two fewer than last year, with the highest rating being the party’s two female ministers Jo Swinson and Lynne Featherstone at numbers 15 and 16. However, the party can celebrate the entry of two men from ethnic minority backgrounds. The shortly-to-be ennobled businessman Rumi Verjee (in at number 46) funded the party’s Leadership Programme, which aims to improve its parliamentary representation from under-represented groups. Maajid Nawaz, a newcomer at number 50, is one of the most interesting in the list, as a former self-styled Islamic extremist, imprisoned and tortured in Mubarak’s Egypt, who underwent a wholesale change of heart and is now Executive Director of Quilliam, the world’s first counter-extremism think tank – and a Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate.

*You can see the full list of the Top 50 Most Influential LibDems HERE and HERE *

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ConservativeHome Diary Week 22: Why I'm Supporting my Friend Nigel Evans

14 Sep 2013 at 12:20

It’s difficult to say much about the Nigel Evans case without prejudicing his trial, but one thing is for certain. Over the last few months he has found out who his real friends are. And that will be even more the case over the months leading up to his trial. I know several people involved in political scandals over the years and the common thread among them is their shock at how easily people they had regarded as lifelong friends cast them by the wayside at the first sign of gunfire. I well remember when my friends the Hamiltons were accused of raping a woman in Ilford and I took to the television studios to defend them. I was told by several people that I should stop doing so. “Why?” I asked. “Because it would not be good for your career”. I gave a pretty dusty response and said somewhat forcefully that a friend is a friend is a friend, and that you wouldn’t be a very good friend if you abandoned a friend at their time of dire need. And that is what I and no doubt many of you will feel about Nigel Evans’s situation. Small messages of support can mean a huge amount to someone in his position. His world will have been rocked to its foundations. He has had to resign from the job he loved and is now facing calls to resign his seat too. He must resist them. The concept of being innocent until proven guilty must be adhered to, and it is for his friends to defend his right to remain Conservative MP for Ribble Valley pending the trial verdict. Nigel protests his innocence. I believe him. And before anyone suggests otherwise in the comments (because I am sure they are will), it has nothing to do with him being gay. It has nothing to do with him being accused of sex crimes. It’s that I don’t believe the Nigel Evans I know would hurt a fly. P.S: If you do comment on this below, please be aware of the laws of contempt of court.


Poor old Rachel Reeves. She’s been badly let down by the Labour Party’s media team. Quite what on earth they thought they were doing by demanding a full public apology from Ian Katz, Newsnight’s Editor, for his tweet which described Reeves as “snoring boring” I just do not know. It made a drama out of a non-crisis. The best way to handle these things is to laugh them off, not ramp up the rhetoric. Sending a normal tweet as opposed to a direct message is a very easy thing to do and many of us have fallen prey to this over the years, me included. It happened to me recently. Luckily I retrieved my tweet within 20 seconds of sending it and no one seemed to have noticed. Sadly for Rachel Reeves, she will now become the Steve Davis of politics, and the word “boring” will forever be associated with her. The truth is she is nowhere near making any Top Ten List of boring politicians. She is very good company indeed, but when she goes on the media she is so on message that you wonder if she has been programmed by Peter Mandelson. When I interviewed her in February she managed to say the same thing 18 times in a five minute interview. If you’re in doubt, you can listen by scrolling down the homepage. Once described as “having the face of an angel and the voice of Pat Butcher”, Reeves has suffered from being promoted too early. She needed to learn her trade on the back benches and in junior shadow positions, but like Chuka Umunna she has been thrust into the limelight far too soon. One or two Conservative junior ministers, who are pushing for immediate promotion to the cabinet, might learn something from this. Be careful what you wish for.


Still no reshuffle, then.


I approach this weekend with some foreboding. I normally look forward to the conference season. It’s a time to meet old friends, indulge in some heavyweight political gossip sessions and rejoice in a gathering of likeminded political tribes. But this year the Liberal Democrats are in Glasgow. Don’t get me wrong, I have got nothing against Glasgow, having only been there once before…but Glasgow? For a party conference? Apparently, delegate numbers are way down on the norm and commercial exhibitors will also be far less prevalent than in the last couple of years. To put it bluntly, it’s a bloody long way to go. Even further than Blackpool was! I’m told that the LibDems will also be returning there next year for their pre-election conference, a decision which completely defies logic. But I am told all of the other venues they normally use were booked up. Further proof that the LibDems don’t really do long term planning.


I am well aware that my political interviewing style is closer to that of the late Sir David Frost rather than Jeremy Paxman, but just occasionally I surprise people by baring my teeth. It happened this week with Sajid Javid, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury who had come on to talk about George Osborne’s speech on the economy. All was going well until he queried my figures on the deficit. OK, I said, how much did it reduce last year, I asked, quite reasonably. “Well the important thing is that it’s falling,” he said. Maybe, but that didn’t answer my question. It turned into a mini Paxman-Michael Howard moment. I don’t think it is unreasonable for a Treasury Minister to have those figures at his fingertips. I regard Sajid as a friend, but friendship has to go out of the window when you’re being paid to do a proper journalistic job, as Sajid no doubt realised. Credit to him, though. Unlike Rachel Reeves, he responded in exactly the right way and texted me making light of the whole thing. It’s never a good idea to fall out over something like this. You can hear the exchange by scrolling down the homepage..

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