The Prime Minister’s former special adviser wrote a 30,000-word opus in praise of rioting – and the devious means used to incite crowds – when he was a history student at Peterhouse College, Cambridge.
McBride argued that:
The American race riots in the Sixties showed that violence is needed to bring political change.
The rumour mill is a good way to spark riots.
And in academic language he even appeared to suggest that riots increase the amount of sexual activity and drug-taking.
The extraordinary riot thesis was written shortly before McBride joined the Treasury, and four years before he started work for the then Chancellor Gordon Brown.
He examined the rampant civil disorder in the black ghettos of the US for his Master of Philosophy (MPhil) degree.
McBride said that the spark for riots was ‘most often a single, symbolically significant act of white abuse or exploitation, rarely in terms of what actually happened as in how the act was perceived through rumours’.
And he cited a book by Patricia Turner called I Heard It Through The Grapevine: Rumor In African-American Culture, which sounds like a political saboteur’s handbook, listing a number of riot-inciting rumours, including the unprovoked clubbing to death of a pregnant black woman and the shooting of a black teenager with his hands up.
And, in a bizarre aside, he suggested that the riots led to ‘good humour, community bonding and temporary lapses in normal rates of sexual activity and substance abuse’ which ‘suggests communal exhibitionism derived from feelings of pride and freedom’.
Despite McBride’s wild views, his old Cambridge tutor, Professor Tony Badger, now the Master of Clare College, remembers him fondly.
He said: ‘We disagreed over the value of the riots – I thought they were counter-productive – but he was very focused, and it was an excellent thesis.
‘He was so good that I tried to persuade him to go and do a PhD in the States. It doesn’t surprise me that he has had such success in the political arena.’