It's been a tumultuous weekend for Derek Draper (and his self-declared "mate" Damian McBride). McBride has rightly resigned for using taxpayer time and resources to make up obscene and untrue smears for Draper's latest blog project, "Red Rag", to spread. It's good news that McBride will be leaving office not only in disgrace but without a penny in payoffs from the taxpayer, too. However, further revelations today suggest that Draper's use of taxpayers' resources on the Red Rag project may have been even more extensive that previously realised.
An interesting point to remember about this whole shocking saga is that the problem with what McBride and Draper did is not just the immorality of making up harmful lies about people, the intention to actively spread those lies, the disgusting nature of the lies themselves or even purely the fact that Draper thought they were "absolutely totally brilliant". It is that on top of all that, they used taxpayers' money and resources to do it.
Let's be clear - nasty politics is not a new thing. True, McBride and Draper may have taken it to a newly finessed level of nasty, but there have always been unpleasant people willing to spread sickening lies about others, and sometimes the pressure cooker of politics attracts more of that kind of person than one would like. In that respect, these two are no more new to the human race than typhus or diarrhoea - not an innovation, but unpleasant nonetheless.
Anyone who believes in a cleaner politics will naturally be shocked by their behaviour, but the fact they charged it to the taxpayer should be opposed even by those that don't think they did anything morally wrong.
Here are the two crucial facts as they are currently being reported:
1) Derek Draper asked Damian McBride to come up with some gossip to feature on the new Red Rag blog that Draper wanted to launch, anonymously and nominally edited by a third party. McBride, paid by the taxpayer, used taxpayer-funded computer facilities to produce and email the scurrilous suggestions to Draper.
2) It now turns out, from the Times, that the Red Rag blog was registered to an address at the House of Commons. This suggests that, unless the person who registered the site was lying, in which case they are in breach of the rules on internet registration, the site was in some way administered through someone's Parliamentary office. If that is found to be the case - and an investigation by Nominet, the people in charge of website registration, is underway - then the taxpayer has picked up the bill yet again.
So far, whilst McBride has gone and there are rumours that Draper is going to follow suit, we have heard an awful lot of near-apologies. McBride appears to be sorry that he got caught. Gordon Brown "regrets" that politics has been damaged by the affair. Draper has at least said sorry to the people named in the smears. One thing we haven't heard is any of them say sorry to the taxpayers who seem to have paid for at least part of the whole sordid scheme.
Surely Derek Draper should pay back the money to taxpayers?