British PM Gordon Brown sent out personal letters on Monday to senior opposition leaders mentioned in an e-mail sent out by one his senior advisor. The e-mail proposed a smear against senior Conservative members.
AFP - British Prime Minister Gordon Brown insisted Monday that no government ministers were involved in efforts by one of his former top aides to spread unfounded allegations about opposition lawmakers.
As he sought to draw a line under a highly embarrassing affair, Brown said he had personally written to Conservative MPs targeted in "obscene" emails written by Damian McBride, the head of strategic planning in Brown's office who was forced to quit Saturday after the emails were leaked.
He did not explicitly apologise but said: "Any activity such as this that affects the reputation of our politics is a matter of great regret to me."
In a letter to the head of the civil service, Gus O'Donnell, Brown wrote: "I am assured that no minister and no political adviser other than the person involved had any knowledge of or involvement in these private emails."
He added that he had "written personally to all those who were subject to these unsubstantiated claims".
Brown also called for the rules governing special advisers such as McBride to be tightened.
"The preparation or dissemination of inappropriate material or personal attacks have no part to play in the job of being a special adviser, just as it has no part to play in the conduct of all our public life," he wrote.
The Tories, whose leader David Cameron was reportedly among those targeted, have demanded an investigation into how much Brown knew about the emails.
McBride sent them to Derek Draper, a one-time Labour spin doctor who runs a website for party supporters, in January. The pair discussed setting up an "attack blog" to spread gossip about their Conservative opponents.
A spokeswoman for Cameron said Brown's letter was "recognition that he has finally recognised the gravity of what's been happening in Downing Street."
Some commentators suggested the emails had exposed a clumsy attempt by Brown's Labour party -- which has been trailing the Tories in opinion polls for months -- to mount a dirty tricks campaign ahead of a general election, which must take place by the middle of next year.
Date created : 2009-04-13