Gordon Brown has finally apologised over plans drawn up by a senior Downing Street official to spread lies about Conservative MPs.
What made the behaviour of former spin doctor Damian McBride so shocking was that he went as far as picking specific rumours which he believed could be placed on the internet.
As well as discussing the creation of an anonymous website, he talked about specific Tory MPs who could be pilloried on it.
As someone who was employed in Downing Street and appointed by Mr Brown, his behaviour was ultimately the Prime Minister’s responsibility. It meant that, even though he personally had done nothing wrong, Mr Brown was under pressure to apologise. But, by waiting so long, the Prime Minister looks as if the word sorry had to be dragged out of him.
It would have made more sense to apologise days ago – when the most he could manage was to offer his “regret”. All Mr Brown achieved yesterday was to ensure his visit to Scotland was overshadowed by more controversy.
Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, also had a difficult time when it emerged neither Tory immigration spokesman Damian Green nor Christopher Galley, the civil servant who passed him a string of confidential documents, would be prosecuted. Some critics saw this as evidence that the Home Office was wrong to call in the police.
But it is not clear that Mrs Smith personally intervened in the police inquiry, or that Home Office officials were amiss in asking police to examine why information was being leaked. No one has seriously claimed that the Home Secretary ordered officers to arrest a senior opposition MP. But questions remain about why the police raided a House of Commons office.