Labour MP Douglas Alexander has dismissed claims that he secretly pushed for the removal of his sister Wendy as party leader in Scotland in a row over donations.
The shadow foreign secretary insisted he “always supported” his sister, despite claims from Gordon Brown’s former spin doctor that he “dispassionately” advised the then-prime minister she would have to quit her role as the party’s Scottish leader.
Damian McBride’s new book, Power Trip, tells how he launched smear campaigns against Cabinet ministers during his boss’s leadership bid. In it, he confesses to leaking stories to the press about senior Labour politicians, including another Scot, the former home secretary John Reid.
Ms Alexander, who has since quit Holyrood, stood down from the post in 2008 because of a row about donations to her leadership campaign.
In his memoirs, Mr McBride claims that Ms Alexander’s brother told Mr Brown his sister would have to stand down to “avoid further damage”.
Mr Alexander also allegedly warned his boss that his sister’s resignation should not be linked to comments she made about the independence referendum.
In 2008, when the SNP was in a minority administration at Holyrood, Ms Alexander challenged the Nationalists to “bring it on’’ and call an early referendum on independence.
Mr Alexander discussed the matter with Mr Brown, said Mr McBride.
“Dispassionately, he told the prime minister that his sister had to quit in order to avoid further damage,” Mr McBride claims.
“However, Douglas warned Gordon she’d need to make it clear that the reason was to do with the donation – and nothing to do with the referendum. If I was sometimes cold-blooded about how I did my job, I had nothing on Douglas that day.”
But Mr Alexander said he “always supported his sister”.
He said: “The style and approach of the politics that Damian McBride embodied has been completely discredited and thankfully the Labour Party has moved on. I support Ed Miliband’s efforts to remove that type of politics from our party.”
Mr Alexander said he has not read Mr McBride’s book and does not intend to.
“He was discredited when he left Downing Street and that’s really all there is to say. I always supported my sister and I never supported Damian McBride. That might explain why he writes about me in those terms.”
Dr Reid, the ex-Motherwell North MP and now Lord Reid, who also served as defence secretary and home secretary, was viewed as a rival to Mr Brown for the leadership when Tony Blair quit in 2007.
Mr McBride claims Lord Reid drank “heavily in the 1980s” when he was “drawing flak for occasional fighting and carousing”.
When Mr Blair quit, Mr McBride says he “decided to unearth” some stories that “I’d gathered over the years about Reid’s escapades from the eighties and early nineties”.
Former Cabinet minister Tessa Jowell, who served in government under Mr Blair and Mr Brown, said yesterday that current party leader Mr Miliband knew about Mr McBride’s activities. She said: “I don’t think it’s damaging for Ed Miliband. I’m sure he knew that this was going on. He was actually away a lot of the time. But the strength of Ed Miliband has been to say that that is the past, we are not going back to that, and that I am not going to preside over a parliamentary party or a Labour Party that allows this kind of bad and malign behaviour, and I think that has been a very important part of building confidence.”
She added: “One of the most important things that Ed Miliband has done is to outlaw this kind of briefing in his shadow Cabinet.”