UK Politics

Gordon Brown 'discussed troops on streets' in crisis

Damian McBride in the background as Gordon Brown gives an interview
Image caption Damian McBride has written about his time as a spin doctor for Gordon Brown

Gordon Brown discussed deploying troops on Britain's streets as news of the 2008 financial crisis became clear, an ex-Labour spin doctor has claimed.

In extracts of a book published in the Daily Mail, Damian McBride said the former prime minister feared "anarchy" once the scale of the crisis was known.

According to the book, Mr Brown said: "We'd have to think: do we have curfews, do we put the Army on the streets, how do we get order back?"

Mr Brown has not yet commented.

Mr McBride, who resigned in 2009 after he was caught planning to smear senior Conservatives, said he had a meeting with Mr Brown on the evening before he announced the part-nationalisation of UK banks in October 2008.

'Anarchy tomorrow'

Mr Brown is quoted as saying: "If the banks are shutting their doors, and the cash points aren't working, and people go to Tesco and their cards aren't being accepted, the whole thing will just explode.

"If you can't buy food or petrol or medicine for your kids, people will just start breaking the windows and helping themselves.

"And as soon as people see that on TV, that's the end, because everyone will think that's OK now, that's just what we all have to do. It'll be anarchy. That's what could happen tomorrow."

According to Mr McBride's book, Power Trip, Mr Brown feared panic from other countries could spread to the UK.

Image caption Gordon Brown thought law and order could collapse in the UK during the 2008 financial crisis

"It was extraordinary to see Gordon so totally gripped by the danger of what he was about to do, but equally convinced that decisive action had to be taken immediately," Mr McBride wrote.

He claimed the then prime minister understood the situation better than other world leaders, his UK opponents and senior bankers.

And the former spin doctor rated Mr Brown's actions as "up with those of President Kennedy and his advisers during the Cuban Missile Crisis".

The book also makes claims about in-fighting between Mr Brown and Tony Blair while Mr Blair was prime minister.

Mr McBride said he was "out to convey the message that Blair was hanging on to power for the sake of it", while "Blair's mob" were trying to portray Mr Brown as uneasy and "not looking prime ministerial".

Further extracts from the book suggest that Ed Miliband may have sent potentially damaging emails to a key figure plotting to attack opponents.

Derek Draper was behind a proposed Labour-supporting political gossip website called Red Rag.

Mr McBride said Mr Draper told him there were a number of Labour ministers "who would have problems because of things they've written to me" - "probably" including Mr Miliband.

A spokesman for Mr Miliband said, though: "Ed was not involved in any plan to smear or spread lies about opponents. Any suggestion he was is totally untrue."

And shadow chancellor Ed Balls told the Times that while he may have been part of a "macho" culture around Mr Brown's team, he knew nothing of the smears against rival ministers.

Mr McBride claims he smeared Labour ministers including Charles Clarke and John Reid during Mr Brown's bid to succeed Tony Blair.

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