I’ve not seen the story about the attempted Conservative smear recounted in Ming Campbell’s memoirs, My Autobiography, quoted elsewhere.
So here’s the story of the Conservative Press Officer and the defamatory email:
A former Liberal Democrat party employee working in public relations rang to alert my team to a damaging e-mail. It accused me of taking money from defence manufacturers in return for asking questions in the House of Commons. If true, which it most certainly was not, it could have led to my expulsion. I was furious about its potential damage to my leadership campaign [to succeed Charles Kennedy] if any newspaper published it. We had lawyers standing by … The e-mail trail led back to a press officer in the Conservative Party. We suspected a political smear. Ben Stoneham, the Lib Dem head of human resources, complained to the Tories who apologised immediately. A letter arrived from Henry Macrory, head of the party’s press department.
“I am writing,” he said, “to offer my sincere apologies for a serious error of judgement last Friday when a Conservative press office e-mailed three university friends in a private capacity with comments about you which we fully accept were defamatory. Her e-mail was sent without the knowledge of anyone else at Conservative Campaign Headquarters, and she bitterly regrets her action.”