I have posted this article on the Guradian's Comment is Free Webpage on the issue of the smear campaign.
This is not the Labour way
Smear tactics like those suggested by Damian McBride drag the party into the gutter, which is why I have called for an inquiry.
In the light of press reports of the attempted smear campaign against the Tories I have called upon the prime minister to establish an independent inquiry into how this smear campaign was set up, who was involved and who knew what and when in the Labour hierarchy.
Smear tactics like this are not the Labour way. They drag the Labour party into the gutter. Coming on top of the revelations about some Labour MPs' expenses they just add further to the undermining of the belief that Labour party supporters have placed in our party. Labour members and supporters have not worked and sacrificed over generations to create a party that resorts to this type of gutter politics.
The prime minister needs to act decisively to restore the standing of the Labour party by launching immediately an independent inquiry into how this smear campaign was planned. If we are to restore the reputation and standing of the party, key questions have to be answered. Who in the party was in any way aware of the campaign? Which party officials, advisers or politicians were consulted? Under whose authority were the perpetrators working? When did senior members of the party become aware of this campaign and what action did they take?
We need to root out these practices and elements within the party so that in future Labour can be seen to be above reproach.
There was a collective sigh of relief in 2007 when in his first speech after taking over the Labour leadership from Blair, Gordon Brown promised a new politics. His personal ratings collapsed when that summer of promise turned into an autumn of spin over a potential election. His return of the master of spin, Peter Mandelson, to cabinet did little to reassure the electorate that the era of spin was over.
If there isn't a drastic rooting out from within the Labour party of the unhealthy style of politics that the smear campaign revealed in the last few days how can we seriously ask the electorate to trust us ever again.
Political rivalry is one thing but personal smear campaigns scrape the barrel of political infighting. If bitter party name-calling turns people off then smear politics just destroys all credibility in the aims of politicians, the role of political parties and the political process itself.
This smear story can only be killed off by decisive action and that action needs to come from the top, very publicly and very firmly. The Labour party needs to look at itself very closely and ask the question, how can we have allowed the party to degenerate to this.
One of the reasons is that the undermining of democracy within the Labour party by New Labour over the last 15 years has resulted in a small arrogant clique now controlling this party to such an extent that they believe that they can act with impunity.
If we can admit that, there is a chance of change and a possibility of reviving the Labour party that once was trusted.