Smearing the opposition: déja vu department

From the Sunday Times extract from Paddy Ashdown’s memoirs, published 12 April 09 (Lord Ashdown relates how news of a long-ago extra-marital affair was leaked to the News of the World in January 1992):

All this made life for my family even more difficult and seriously undermined my self-confidence, too. That, it appears, was precisely what was supposed to happen – as we discovered after the election, when we learnt that some Tories had imported a group of US activists called “the Nerds”, whose job was to spread malign rumours and make unfounded personal accusations against senior opposition MPs.

Perhaps this was done without official sanction from the top of the Conservative party. But after the election Kelvin MacKenzie, then editor of The Sun, revealed that at least one cabinet-level Tory minister had approached him seeking to retail scurrilous and untrue allegations against a number of senior opposition MPs.

Ring a bell?  The News of the World was one of the scurrilous Sunday newspapers to which the right-wing blogger ‘Guido Fawkes’ (real name Paul Staines) gave the McBride-Draper emails containing the squalid smears of leading Tories and their wives.  To quote Guido’s own blog post of 11 April 2009:

Stephen Pound [MP] says Guido is laughing all the way to the bank – actually Guido gave the story to the News of the World and the Sunday Times for pleasure not profit.  [Emphasis added]

Funny way to get one’s pleasure, you might think.  It takes all sorts….