The Slog offers a catch-up on Kirsty McNeill….and the ambition of her boss to replace Dominic Strauss-Kahn
The only time I ever rang Kirsty McNeill, she answered her mobile by saying “Hi, thanks for calling back”. She then started to splutter on about this line and that meeting – all very obviously senior Labour Government stuff – before I butted in and said who I was and why I wanted to talk to her. Clearly, she’d thought I was a colleague.
My reason for making the call was to confirm a tip-off I’d had that the one-time Communist and scourge of all Blairite revisionism had just been promoted to be, effectively, Gormless Frown’s Number Two.
“Ah well,” she said, in that gabbly Glaswegian accent, “I’m afraid you’re quite mistaken there, you see I don’t have any Government positions any more, and I’m not working for Gordon Brown in any capacity”.
“That must be why you were talking about senior Party meetings then,” I countered.
“No,” she insisted, “I’m sorry, but you’ve been misinformed”.
Just for kicks, I asked if her boss ever took anti-depressants, and then not surprisingly she hung up.
That was a month before the 2010 General Election. The next day, I read a piece in Prospect Magazine by Anthony Seldon that contained this description of Brown’s ops room inside Number Ten:
‘Heywood sat to Brown’s immediate right, flanked by communications director Simon Lewis, and Kirsty McNeill, his young Glaswegian head of external affairs.’
For the Hard Left, lies told to the bourgeois enemy don’t count. For her employer, of course, lies told during the process of achieving career ambitions don’t count either. And indeed, in September 2010 (after Brown had managed to attract the lowest percentage of General Election Labour support since 1910) online news site allvoices.com noted that ‘Gordon Brown is to focus on schools and Africa. Mr Brown says he will focus on development … Mr Brown’s slimmer operation will be headed by Kirsty McNeill‘.
Ms McNeill’s line about her firebrand history is that she has mellowed. Other Labour Party observers (including, I understand, Lord Mandelson) argue that Brown is merely reverting to type, and returning to his roots as a Scottish radical Left politician. Either way, McNeill has clearly established herself as a kind of Beria to Brown’s Stalin….or Rowan Atkinson to his Mr Bean, depending on who you choose to believe. It now seems to be tricky getting to Gordon without going through Kirsty.
This might explain why McNeill was voted Britain’s 11th most powerful lesbian by Pink News as long ago as 2009. She may have gone up in that ranking as a result of working in Downing Street, or down as a result of working for Brown: influence is a fickle thing at the best of times. But if press reports more recently are anything to go by, Kirsty is as unpleasant as ever. When passengers on a British Airways flight from Oman to London were bumped off as Brown’s entourage boarded during a stopover in Abu Dhabi two months ago, passengers were told there was a sudden “overbooking” problem. The general view seemed to be that Brown, McNeill and friends had muscled their way onto the flight.
This may or may not be true. But as one passenger told Australia’s news.com, “I blame BA more than Brown, but Ms McNeill was seriously unpleasant”.
Funny how the Left always needs a Zil lane….and freebies and upgrades on flights. This is from the Parliamentary inventory of all MPs employing staff, and the benefits they have obtained, for Kirsty McNeill:
‘Director of Strategy, Office of Gordon and Sarah Brown (a registered company). Overseas visits : 24 July 2010 to Uganda to staff Mr Brown during his trip to the Africa Union summit and a local school. Flight upgrades provided by Kenya Airways. 20-24 September 2010 to Harvard to staff Mr Brown during his visiting fellowship. Commercial flights and accommodation were provided by Harvard University . 15-16 November 2010 to Italy to staff Mr Brown during his trip to Italy to discuss global economic affairs. Commercial flights were provided by New York University Florence, accommodation was provided on campus. 19-21 November 2010 to India to staff Mr Brown during his trip to India , including meetings with the Indian government and local charities. Commercial flights were provided by HT Media Limited.’
But particularly intriguing is that, according to a Westminster source, Kirsty has of late “accompanied Gordon on several trips to Washington” where, as we know, the IMF is based…an organisation now headless thanks to Dominic Strauss-Kahn languishing in Rikers Island Prison, New York, where he is widely presumed by the tabloid media to be guilty until proved innocent.
Much of the UK media also harbours the same assumption. Mary Riddell wrote in the Telegraph this morning about ‘the disgraced IMF Head Dominic Strauss-Kahn’ – an odd use of the past tense given his case hasn’t even come to trial yet. But Mary’s article also contained this fascinating paragraph:
‘I understand that Mr Brown is as keen as ever [on the IMF job]. According to Labour party sources, David Cameron and Mr Osborne are increasingly “obdurate”, insisting that he can’t have it. The PM refuses to entertain the possibility that the man he portrays as responsible for the country’s economic plight should become head of the world’s leading financial institution. That leaves two options for Mr Brown. Either he gives up gracefully (not his style). Or he puts his faith in his friends. In other words, his fate depends on whether Barack Obama, Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy band together and insist that the post is offered to him.’
That’s an interesting group of friends. Maybe somebody should link this Slog piece to some of their advisers – if only to see how they’d respond to Kirsty ‘Martin Bormann’ McNeill being the only conduit when it comes to contacting their preferred candidate.
Additional reporting by Mike Gibbins