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Mandelson comments backfire

Nick Robinson | 19:04 UK time, Sunday, 21 February 2010

It is one thing to be accused of bullying by a journalist with a book to sell who has to rely on anonymous sources.

It is another for someone who runs an anti-bullying helpline to allege that they have been called by staff working directly with the prime minister.

It is no secret that Gordon Brown is not an easy man to deal with. The former cabinet secretary, Lord Turnbull, once accused him of acting with "Stalinist ruthlessness".

Indeed, in recent days and weeks the prime minister has chosen to admit to losing his temper, shouting at people and even to throwing things when frustrated.

However, the attempt of his close political ally Peter Mandelson to justify this behaviour as that of someone who was - in his words - emotional, passionate and demanding, has backfired.

It provoked tonight's claim, which Downing Street will find much harder to dismiss, even though no specific allegation has been made let alone proved.

Some will, no doubt, argue that how prime ministers behave matters much less than what they achieve.

They may point out that were Winston Churchill in Number 10 today, his habit of dictating letters to his secretary from his bath whilst supping champagne, would lead to accusations of sexual harassment and drinking on the job.

Others will argue that bullying - if it took place - is different from other personal behaviour. It is simply unacceptable.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Hi
    I am not surprised by this news as a lot has been written about his attitude to those who use to disagree with him when he was the Chancellor. Mandy's guarded comments also confirm it. Don't forget Mandy wants to help him as far as he can because Brown gave him a Lordship to stop the Blairites launching no confidence motions in him. The whole thing is in a mess. We are in a period where honest hardworking people with inetgrity are sidelined and corrupt, rogue and scandalous individals are pardoned and rewarded. All our institutions have been politicised, the country is bankrupt, industry is being continously decimated with tax and regulations, we have become the highest taxed nation and all what we get are spin and denial of any negative information. Good luck to politics.

  • Comment number 2.

    Nick:

    I am very sadden that Mandelson comments backfire but, this was a thing that should've happen....


    (D)

  • Comment number 3.

    Yes, bullying is totally unacceptable. But then, this deeply flawed, Stalinist, control freak of a PM is unacceptable anyway. Does this story really tell us anything we didn't already know or at least suspect?

  • Comment number 4.

    Has anyone who subscribes to this blog lived in Zimbabwe? If this is all Gordon Brown has done, it's mild. Over there, they simply have you killed. Ask Amnesty International.

    On this one, give Gordon Brown a bit of room.

  • Comment number 5.

    Nick:

    (Continuing from 7.58pm)

    Others will argue that bullying - if it took place - is different from other personal behaviour. It is simply unacceptable.

    Yes, bullying and having that type of behaviour is simply unacceptable and not proper in the forum that is being discussed currently, with Gordon Brown....

    (Dennis Junior)

  • Comment number 6.

    Labour have been caught out big time pretending it was some figment of Rawnsley's imagination.

    Good, and well overdue.

  • Comment number 7.

    This Helpline boss has breached customer confidentiality.

    But, of course, she won't be able to go any further because of that same ethos and give us the details of who, when and what.

    Typical Tory dirty tricks-end of. Just leave a dirty innuendo that can't be disproved. Especially when you see who sponsors or is patron of this Helpline-A Tory MP & a Tory Councillor.

    Unfortunately for Cameron, the only person this will strengthen is Gordon Brown. People allegedly want strong leadership; if so, they know where to go for it now!

  • Comment number 8.

    4. isobel45:

    "On this one, give Gordon Brown a bit of room.2

    He can have all the room he likes. After the election.

  • Comment number 9.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 10.

    NICK

    As an ex-Civil Servant, you don't go off to a Helpline. You approach your Office Manager & complain first.

    There is a very effective mechanism for dealing with bullying and harassment, and NO Civil Servant(Gordon Brown included) is exempt from it-FACT.

    Also, All posts with Minister's etc Private Offices, The Cabinet Office etc ALL come with a VERY specific health-warning in the initial adverts & the job specification about:

    1) The hours you may well be required to work.

    2) The stress you will INEVITABLY be subjected to because of the demanding nature of the job.

    3) The unrealistic deadlines you will have to meet-yes, that's the word they use.

    And Nick, imagine how YOU would feel if, on a general policy question, to an important person like yourself, the PM said:

    Sorry, pal, I've got bigger fish to fry-my people will get round to it in a week or two.

    YOU would be through the roof and quite rightly. We expect a lot from our leaders, so they in turn must expect as much for those who work for them-again, FACT.

  • Comment number 11.

    If this happened at a major company the unions would be up in arms,they would be calling for resignations.

    What will the Union supporting Labour party do about it when it is taking place in their own back room?

    So far they have come out to deny it is happening. That is not credible - there have been too many reports over too long a period, of Brown bullying his way to No 10.

    The "clunking fist" may not have actually landed a blow, but its presence was clearly an omnipresent threat.

    Bullying takes many forms - not just physical violence. Smearing people (an activity that Browns office was engaged in, and which has led to sackings when it was made public), is just as contemptible, and a form of bullying.

    Browns years of undermining Blair, was illustrative of his character, which the latest claims would also be symptomatic of.

  • Comment number 12.

    Just out of interest, hasn't Christine Pratt broken the confidentiality of her clients? Since breaking this confidentiality has a political effect, it is clearly a political act (there is no other reason for her to do this, it is not in the best interest of her clients). Hence, she clearly has political motives.

    Is this the "dirty and brutal" election that Eric Pickles had promised it to be?

  • Comment number 13.

    Oops, sorry I didn't read #7 coleusman

  • Comment number 14.

    Take a second look at labour Brown said

    Well I might if I could find them. Where have they all gone? Either left or leaving.

    So who is there left to vote for in the labour party?

    Not Lord Mandelson peering at us from the House of Horrors of number 10 with his familiar 'Look into my eyes and you will believe what I say'

    Certainly not the new goody two shoes Brown although that hasn't lasted for long.

    Anyone who has been on the wrong side of bullying at work will know this is nothing to do with a person's character but all to do with them getting their own way at any cost. Dangerous when there is no one strong enough to hold them to account or stop them

    It's a sad time for those still grieving for the old labour party.

    All that's left is a bunch of chancers performing their last 'Hooray'.



  • Comment number 15.

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain.

  • Comment number 16.

    It seems that every blogger at present wants to take a pot shot at Gordon Brown ,Easy isnt it the media put up one target and all we have to shoot at it can,t miss really ,and now we are led to believe that Gordon Brown is a bullies his staff ,how is this bulling carried out ,does he punch,push.or kick them if so surley this would be assault
    or doe,s he shout at them to buck their ideas up .
    Come on no10 stand up an be counted if real bullying is going on at least have the courage to come forward and challenge Gordon Brown dont hide behind hotlines hysterical newspaper reporters whose only aim is character assassination.

  • Comment number 17.

    There's a considerable difference between Gordon Brown and Winston Churchill. One of them was one of the best and most inspiring leaders of the 20th Century - another of them is the worst of the 21st, and a complete idiot.

    To be honest, for all his ranting and raging, he's not done that good a job anyway. I can understand why he might be getting hot under the collar while he's hard at work making the country a little bit worse.

  • Comment number 18.

    Why should politicians be treated differently from the public? Bullying is bullying and I think that the Westminster Village has decided, until now, that bullying by the PM is acceptable.

    Personally I think this is yet another reason why we must end the 'lobby' and the too cosy relationship between MPs and journalists.

  • Comment number 19.

    The whole problem with New Labour is that they have been control freaks. One of them is currently PM. One of them used to be PM...

  • Comment number 20.


    Don't the laws (new ones spewing out regularly) of the land apply to Gordon Brown?

    Or can we all now claim in our defence to be perfectionists, demanding, impatient and in stressful jobs?

    If he can't handle the stress, he should resign.

  • Comment number 21.

    How much checking was done to verify claims of Bullying Helpline CEO reported on BBC? Charity commission website suggests 2008 accounts nearly a year late and a tiny income. Also links to Conservative politicians (inc stopry on local Conservative Assoc website,

    And can you take seriously an organisation that promises client confidentiality on its website then splashes cases on BBC.

    Doesn't smell right!

  • Comment number 22.

    NICK

    Sorry, I should have added........

    In any position like the PM's office, there will be at least 2 tiers of management to whom you could complain if offended. Generally, staff will be AO who could start a complaint to their line manager, which will be EO(my grade) level. There will then be a Senior Executive Officer & a Grade 6 or 7 above them to whom the EO will then go.

    That's what I mean by effective mechanism. And it's been that way ie applicable to Ministers, Prime Ministers & ordinary Civil Servants alike for at least the last dozen years.

    You may recall Sir Robin Butler's report on Iraq & his criticisms of sofa Government. The reason being that the ordinary CIVIL SERVICE practices were ignored during that period.

    And that is one reason I'm confident any ALLEGED harsh words from Gordon Brown could and would have been dealt with "in-house" by the Civil Service-NO senior Civil Servant would countenance otherwise.

  • Comment number 23.

    Hold on a second. The so-called helpline is backed by Tories (Anne Widdecombe is a patron / David Cameron is quoted on the home page). What due diligence has taken place to check that they are qualified to advise on bullying (are they regulated?) and what hard evidence is there that they were contacted? What can we make of a helpline that is prepared to breach confidentiality? Call me a cynic, but the chief executive looked a little ill-prepared for the interview - hastily arranged under pressure from her patrons???

  • Comment number 24.

    As long as Christine Pratt doesn't name the individuals who rang the helpline then no breaches of confidenciality have been broken.

    The Nulab defenders of the indefensible are out in force and are now trying to turn Brown's agressive and bullying behaviour into a reason to attack the Tories, rather than stop for a moment to consider the employees of No. 10 who have been subjected to unreasonable and agressive behaviour while trying to do their jobs.

    They are not his verbal "punchbags", and it is hardly a sign of leadership to deny what is now clearly the truth. What is required is an appology from Brown towards his No.10 staff.

  • Comment number 25.

    7. At 8:05pm on 21 Feb 2010, coleusman

    Stop the faux indignation, no personal details of anybody were revealed, ergo no breach of confidentially.

    By the tone of your posts it suggests you actually condone workplace bullying. Is that the case?

    "Typical Tory dirty tricks-end of."

    Typical NewLabour dirty tricks more like, shoot the messenger, don't address the real problem.

  • Comment number 26.

    Well now this is starting to look more and more like a professionally orchestrated tory smear campaign, the sort they get so hot under the coller about when they are the victims and the sort the press scream about when the are the victims but never highlight ones against labour.

    -A tory supporting paper starts the story with unnamed "24 carot" sources
    -The head of a helpline just happens to
    a - be working on a sunday and avaialbe to talk to the media, sorry i meant working on a sunday and go out of their way to find a reporter and speak to them (As there is no evidence they were hounded for this info)
    b - allready know about these "phone calls" despite again it being a weekend and so obviously this has not just come to their attention now, therefore we known they knew about this before the papers
    c - be willing to breach confidentiality laws on a story that will help the tories stop their shrinking poll lead shrinknig furhter

    Now the media would have us believe that these are completly accidental in coming out now and that this help-line is a second indepenet comfirmation.

    What is more likely is that this help-line found out first. They being a Tory supporter (as most civil servants / quango members / independent body members are) went to a Tory supporting paper who went to the Tories and organised the reporting of the entire story to maximise it's damage.

    You could go further and suggest that a tory supporting civil servant who got yelled at by Brown for ruining some policy launch by leaking bits (perhaps the so called "death tax") then called this line to start the story going.

    Looking at this from the sort of evidence you could use at an employment tribunal you have

    - Gordon saying his innocent
    - A ton of people who've known him ages with decent (mostly) references

    vs

    - A reporter who won't name his source
    - A phone call made by an unnamed person which has alledgedly been heard by a help line manager but which may either be non-existant or malicious

    A tribuanl on this evidence would rule for Brown, the media have no evidence, just the drip drip of smear for Tory HQ, and I'd put money on there being more drips in the next few days.

  • Comment number 27.

    I am disgusted by the attacks on the helpline and it chairwoman, typical new labour attempts to discredit the messenger in an attempt to silence the message.

    Have they no shame!

    By the way bullying relys on fear and intimidation, often with the bullies often failing to realise they are bullies. What kind of fool expects someone who is being bullied by the Head of both the Department they work for and the Union that reprents them to stand up and denounce them. They would quite rightly expect to be fired and called a liar by their senior employers and Union reps., and struggle both to have their side heard fairly and to find a new job.

  • Comment number 28.

    http://www.swindonlink.com/php_article_show.php?id=282

    National Bullying Helpline
    Bullied workers get helpline to call
    South Swindon MP Anne Snelgrove hosted the launch of the Swindon based charity which will tackle workplace on 25 April.
    The National Bullying Helpline is the brainchild of Swindon based human resources specialists Christine and David Pratt from Abbey Meads who have been offering help and advice on bullying in the workplace for 10 years. But they needed charitable status to secure funding from the national lottery, government and sponsors in order to increase the support they can give to employees desperate for help.
    Read lots more
    Downing Street sets up support line for MPs distressed over expenses claimsEmail sent by No 10 gives Labour MPs switchboard number to ring for support, advice or legal help
    Gordon Brown has set up a team in Downing Street to counsel and support distressed Labour MPs facing flak from constituents over their expenses claims, the Guardian has learnt.

    An internal email sent out by the Labour party to all MPs reveals that a “wellbeing” support line has been launched from No 10. MPs are being told they can ring the Downing Street switchboard to be put through for support and advice.

    The team is being headed by Anne Snelgrove, Brown’s newly appointed parliamentary private secretary, who used to work for Ed Balls and is an avid user of Twitter, recently using the micro-blogging site to publish a link announcing her appointment.

    The internal email sent today reads: “‘Well-being’ support and advice available from colleagues: Anne Snelgrove will act as a first port of call for colleagues on these matters. Anne will have a team of colleagues working with her on this. Anne can be contacted via the Number 10 switchboard.”

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/jun/18/expenses-mps-labour-support-line

  • Comment number 29.

    It is one thing to be accused of bullying by a journalist with a book to sell who has to rely on anonymous sources.
    ........................

    Come off it Nick. If you journos didn't have and protect anonymous sources you wouldn't have a job, book or no book. And if I had to choose between Andrew Rawnsley and the deadly duo of GB and PM aka ' the prince of darkness', for who was telling the truth the bookies would no longer be taking bets on Rawnsley.

  • Comment number 30.

    From the National Bullying Helpline website

    http://www.nationalbullyinghelpline.co.uk/employees.htm
    MEDIATION
    Call or e-mail us now if you require assistance with workplace disputes. Whether you are an employee or an employer, we can refer you to experts and recommend solutions. We provide a complete confidential and impartial service.


    It strikes me that if I'd went to a charity rather than complaining to the civil service structures in place for all civil servants to complain about a bullying boss, I wouldn't be too excited at the prospect of having to turn up at the office tomorrow, not that my complaint is all over the press.

    Were those who asked for help asked if they minded their tales of woe being plastered over the press? If they were stressed out on Friday, just how stressed are they feeling tonight?

    Maybe an organisation with Councillor Mary O'Connor (Conservative) and The RT.HON. Ann Widdecombe MP as patrons, you can't help wonder if perhaps this charity could be questioned as to their 'charitable' motives in this instance...

    I'm no great fan of this government, but one last thing, isn't it a frequent observation that the symptoms of those being bullied include stress, anger... etc. Perhaps it could be argued that GB is the victim of bullying? If that is the case, then I wonder who are the people responsible for the bullying? It couldn't be the people writing nes stories, books and perhaps even on the oppositio benches, could it? Just asking a question.

    Anyone going to work in politics, in Downing Street should know that the job is going to be highly stressful, demanding beyond anything else youve ever experienced and constant. It really isn't suitable for those, as suggested by someone on the previous page, who would prefer working in a flower shop.

  • Comment number 31.

    The sooner Brown and this shambles of a government go the better.

  • Comment number 32.

    12. At 8:28pm on 21 Feb 2010, richardblogger wrote:
    Just out of interest, hasn't Christine Pratt broken the confidentiality of her clients?

    ===

    No.

  • Comment number 33.

    "Some will, no doubt, argue that how prime ministers behave matters much less than what they achieve."

    So he's achieved the longest recession and the biggest deficit on record. Sold our gold for a song, continued an illegal war and he's a bully?

  • Comment number 34.

    These rumours are well known as are the comments of SKY TV and Telegraph reporter Jeff Randall who described (his previous working experience) David Cameron as a bully.

    It is not a small thing but there are some concerns as to the provenance of the Anti Bullying charity and it is alleged that like the Tax Payers Alliance they are if not a front for the Tory Party funded by rich and right wing interested people.

    I think we need a charity commission investigation into the charity - just for balance it would be good if you Nick could find out how long they have been around - previous party political affiliations of key staff and trustees and who their funders are.

  • Comment number 35.

    To all the Labour trolls posting on here in faux indignation, I know it must be difficult for you, but try to understand that if no personal details have been released by the National Bullying Helpline, then there can be no breach of confidentiality.

    Trying to smear Christine Pratt is pathetic, as well. In fact it could be construed as bullying!

    Labour - the nasty party.

  • Comment number 36.

    If you think that it's acceptable to bully your staff - by hurling abuse at them and throwing mobile phones etc. - then you're a coward not a leader.

    Leaders bring people with them. Leaders tolerate ambiguity and differences of opinion. And above all leaders inspire people to give their best because they want to - not because they're affraid of you.

    So let's stop the ridiculous pretence that being a bully = being a good leader; it does not. Then let's move on and ask the real questions to establish the facts :

    1) Has Brown ever thrown a mobile phone at or near to a member of staff?
    2) Has Brown ever verbally insulted or sworn at a member of staff?





  • Comment number 37.

    Yawn yawn - 6 May can't come too soon.

  • Comment number 38.

    I think the extracts of Andrew Rawnsley's book that expose the frailties and limitations of all the major protagonists of the current govt over the last few years should rightly be overshadowed by the one extract on page 33 of the Observer "The Weekend Brown Saved the Banks from the Abyss".

    I would consider this extract to be the most telling, maybe Brown's finest moment and probably the one that he can never capitalise on.

    To explain...
    Financial dominoes were starting to fall, knowledgable people seemed to consider meltdown an inevitability, cash machines not giving out money on Monday morning ...

    Some people sit paralysed in the face of adversity and other's step up to the plate. In this case, regardless of his personal failings, Gordon seemed to be the latter. Fortunately for us, due to his and Darling's mobilisation, the global economy avoided the immediate abyss and as Rawnsley states Monday morning was "business as usual". Thus, no one can really truly appreciate Brown's contribution in this since we never experienced the abyss first-hand. For Brown, this must be a triumph and a curse at the same time.

    I for one, and never a fan of Gordon particularly, do appreciate him stepping up to the plate and if a lack of appropriate behaviour in the workplace is the price then I dont believe that price is all that high. I for one like to still get my money out of the cash machine ...

    enigmajx

  • Comment number 39.

    YELLOWBELLY

    I used to work for the Child Support Agency.

    For example, had I, or anyone else much higher than I, confirmed to Nick or anyone else in the media that "Amongst our clients, there are X Members of Parliament", we would have been out on our ears, CEO included. AND NO-ONE IN THE AGENCY would have been able to collate that information if it was requested.

    Part of the Data Protection etc legislation is ANY disclosure that could lead to the identification of individuals. As there are likely to be a fairly small number of staff working in the PM's office, anything that identifies them as alleged users of this bullying hot-line is likely to lead to identification of them.

    Believe me, as an ex-Civil Servant, there is NO way even a PM could get away with these allegations. Maybe, just maybe, 20 years ago, but NOT in this day & age.

    And please remember, if the PM has lost his rag a few times, that don't constitute bullying. What WOULD do is consistent verbal harassment of indiviuals or an individual and no one is suggesting that.

    And, as I've said elsewhere, any one entering those jobs will know it is HIGH PRESSURE. I certainly would never have applied for such had I been younger, because I ALWAYS tried to leave work at work at 5pm or whenever, something you or I in Gordon Brown's shoes OR HIS STAFF'S shoes would rarely, if ever, have the luxury of doing!

    I don't condone bullying in the workplace, but I also don't condone people who can't stand the heat sitting whinging in the kitchen about the chef's temper tantrums.

    And, for the benefit of Eddie, post 11, I rather think Tony Blair painted himself into a corner, rather than Gordon Brown bullying him out. I think a divisive war(within the Labour Party, at least) in Iraq was Tony Blair's lead, not Gordon Brown's, because, at that stage Labour were 6 pts up on the Tories, and that shrunk to 2 pts on Election Day 2005, for no other reason than Iraq.

  • Comment number 40.

    #24 "As long as Christine Pratt doesn't name the individuals who rang the helpline then no breaches of confidenciality have been broken."

    You are being naive. Look at the evidence, if you heard on the TV that the NBH said that someone from your office had called them, wouldn't you look at the person you think was the most vulnerable? The fact that someone calls NBH means that they do not want their employer to know that they feel they have been bullied. The fact that you are treating it so lightly is worrying.

    No10 has said that NBH has not contacted them. Since NBH have not released names then no one can even verify that they are telling the truth. Habeas corpus - so where is the body? This is a Coulson smear, it has his hallmarks.

  • Comment number 41.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 42.

    It seems to me that we all need to read the book. . . Private Eye suggests that Number 10 has briefed stories about the content that they guessed at and are now denying to be true! To know whether this is the case neeeds a read of the book!

    However, it is accepted wisdom that bullies do not get the best out of their people.

  • Comment number 43.

    Remember that the people who are at the end of this behaviour are not generally Labour Party apparatchiks, but regular civil servants. They have little choice but to take what is thrown at them in the course of their work, or just resign. I work in one of the larger departments - whose 'boss' has defended GB during the course of this controversy - and am well aware of the stories which come out of Number 10 about what it's like to work close to GB. But then we generally accept that it's going to get like that when you're working close to any minister. They get away with behaviour which would get lower level staff into severe trouble, but you just have to take it. So do a lot of our senior directors, and you can't say anything back at them either. But then, in the private sector I guess getting shouted and sworn at is not really seen as that serious.

  • Comment number 44.

    Complaints by staff of bullying in The Treasury when Brown was Chancellor and in No.10 while he has been PM have been reported in Hansard, as note in "Dizzy Thinks" site

    http://dizzythinks.net/2010/02/brown-admits-his-office-has-bullying.html

    This is the party that threatens those who have been overpaid benefits with prison and are then found to have its MPs abusing their expences and getting slapped wrists, and now we find that after years of them complaining of abuse by private employers that they have being abusing their staff.

  • Comment number 45.

    25. At 9:01pm on 21 Feb 2010, yellowbelly wrote:
    7. At 8:05pm on 21 Feb 2010, coleusman

    Stop the faux indignation, no personal details of anybody were revealed, ergo no breach of confidentially.

    By the tone of your posts it suggests you actually condone workplace bullying. Is that the case?

    "Typical Tory dirty tricks-end of."

    Typical NewLabour dirty tricks more like, shoot the messenger, don't address the real problem.

    ===============================================================

    Well said Yellowbelly hit the nail on the head.

  • Comment number 46.

    It is reported that the Tory MP Ann Widdecombe, is the patron of a bullying charity. To many people this is equivalent to having King Herod being chosen to be the patron of childrens welfare. Many of the incidents of work place bulling occur in those organisations who are supporters or funders to the Tory Party.
    In this respect it should also be remembered that Andy Coulson the Tory Party Head of Communications was found by an employment tribunal in December 2008 to have seriously engaged in bullying of a journalist at the News of the World and to have presided over a culture of bulling whist he was the editor of that newspaper. See Guardian report at:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2008/dec/18/andy-coulson-bullied-news-of-the-world-reporter

  • Comment number 47.

    34. At 9:30pm on 21 Feb 2010, balancedthought

    God, you are desperate, aren't you!

  • Comment number 48.

    As someone who despises Brown and the BBC about equally, I suspect that Downing Street will find tonight's claim fairly easy to dismiss. We have no evidence, other than this woman's word for it, that any of these people contacted them. And just a little searching reveals that this charity has questions to answer.

    http://thebullyinghelpline.blogspot.com/

    Even looking at the website... the books on sale... the talk of "associates" should ring alarm bells... Sadly, it seems in the BBC's case it didn't. Three from just the PM's office... rather a lot. Then there's the question of confidentiality...

  • Comment number 49.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 50.

    Goodness gracious, the vicious Labour bloggers are definitely up late tonight on this one! The truth obviously hurts! Lots of smears going on. Evil Tories, etc.

    Just because a helpline has a Tory patron does not per se make it biased. I know the Tories are the font of all evil and all that, but sometimes some of them are perfectly decent people who do actually want to help others, even if you disagree with their views on how.

    Was it wrong for the helpline chief to breach confidentiality? Possibly, though I can't help feeling that if, for example, she'd gone public with allegations of bullying by, say Tesco, many of the above bloggers would have been delighted to jump on the 'Tesco is evil bandwagon' and this abuse of employees must stop. We need new laws to protect staff etc etc.

    Let me ask another question: assuming she's correct, is it right for Number 10 to deliberately mislead and lie to the public to bury a bad news story? No. Maybe this lady simply got fed up with Number 10's lies and decided to put the account straight. Fair enough, seems to me. That's what whistleblowers are supposed to do.

    Finally, can you imagine what the above bloggers would be saying if a Tory had been a bully? They'd foam the mouth with their outrage.

  • Comment number 51.

    A lot of civil servants are utterly useless - I used to be one until i decided i'd rather work with people who at least aspired to be competent.

    Frankly if more ministers shouted at their civil servants then the country would be in a much better state.

  • Comment number 52.

    39. At 9:37pm on 21 Feb 2010, coleusman wrote:

    Part of the Data Protection etc legislation is ANY disclosure that could lead to the identification of individuals. As there are likely to be a fairly small number of staff working in the PM's office, anything that identifies them as alleged users of this bullying hot-line is likely to lead to identification of them.

    ====================================================================

    Having worked closely with No10 there are actually quite a few people who work there. No 10 is actually quite a big building with tardis like qualities. To say that over the last few years some people approx 4, have contacted a Natonal Help Line is not a breach of Data Protection or Confidentiality as it does not identify an individual directly. The only person who would have a case is GB himself however the book and other publicity over the last few years about GB himself precludes that.

    I would also add that GB is outside of the Civil Service code and it would be for the Cabinet Secretary to try and change behaviour; which apparently he has tried.

  • Comment number 53.

    #50

    Tories have been bullies, or didn't you read the comments above your's past the point where you first disagreed with them?

    If you honestly think all of this is a massive co-incidence then why not turn your question around and ask yourself what you'd think if this was said about DC and we found out the day before that Campbell was back working for no 10?

    Too much of this smells like a rat, I don't particulary like GB but there is a big difference between being a demanding boss and a bully, although I do know people who take offence when there boss asks them to do a full days work, maybe these people are the same?

    A lot of people believe that Lord Sugars management style amounts to bullying, but not the BBC who laud him to the heavens, I don't either as it happens, some people simply don't like bosses who want results.

    And does it not strike you as odd that the head of the bullying helpline knew about calls may who knows how long ago about the PM, the boss of my tech support company doesn't know which celebs need help turning their internet back on and off again, and there are plenty of papers who'd pay for that!

  • Comment number 54.

    Nick, How could you mention the name of Winston Churchill in the same paragraph as Mandy & Brown?? Churchill might have had his eccentricities (and by the way his drinking is vastly over-stated) but he was one of the greatest Britains and one of our greatest PMs (and a great Chancellor). Brown in comparison is egotistical, arrogant and incompetent. Please do be careful in whose company you place Mr. Brown!

  • Comment number 55.

    Dear bluntjeremy, I don't think that for one moment anyone would be "foaming at the mouth" at the sight of Tory bullies, in fact I should imagine that bullying at Bullingdon was and is not just de rigeur, but positively encouraged. Furthermore, I think it will take more than gentle persuasion to keep many of the half-wit "Bully" boys to keep stum over the next few months and stop putting their size nines (or size twelves, depending what foot you are looking at) in it!!

  • Comment number 56.

    51. At 9:59pm on 21 Feb 2010, APbbforum

    I've just been on the phone to a friend and she says the same thing. She's got one guy she's been working with for 4 years. The boss can't get him to ever do anything properly. He's always pushing his luck to see how far he'll get. My mate takes him off to the kitchen and gives him a right telling off, some good finger pointed in the face some forceful shouting and he's sorted for 3 or 4 months.

    It took a couple of years for her to learn how to deal with him, and when she tried 'giving him a going over' it worked. She used to tell him off in the office, but the younger ones would get upset and frightened and thought she was a monster.

    He admits freely that he entertains himself winding people up and just generally likes being difficult, and when she shouts at him, that's when he realises he's gone too far!

    The boss won't do it because he's frightened of being called a bully...meanwhile she's sick of doing the boss' job for him. The boss never ever tells anyone off, or tells them their work isn't good enough. Most of the time half the work in the office needs to be redone at least twice. For the sake of being polite and not wanting to upset people, companies and organisations are leaking money. She's convinced if the boss threw a tantrum now and then, they kids would sit up, knuckle under, and even generate a profit.

  • Comment number 57.

    Unbelievable... the Observer is suddenly a Tory supporting newspaper and Rawnsley worked for the Daily Mail.

    For those who are desperate to discredit anyone involved with these allegations at least make some attempt at being plausible.

  • Comment number 58.

    Uncivil civil_servant

    Sorry, mate, but when I wrote to the DWP Minister in September 2007 about another personal matter of CSA policy towards its' staff, I was advised neither he nor any other Minister, PM INCLUDED, is exempt from the Civil Service code of conduct.

    So, if that applied then, I assume it still applies today. Whether or not Gordon would get reprimanded for using eBay out of lunch hour, I doubt!

    But I AM sure anything seen as undue hassling or harassment of staff,given the nature of a post in the PM's office/Cabinet Office would NOT be tolerated.

  • Comment number 59.

    58. At 10:48pm on 21 Feb 2010, coleusman wrote:
    Uncivil civil_servant

    Sorry, mate, but when I wrote to the DWP Minister in September 2007 about another personal matter of CSA policy towards its' staff, I was advised neither he nor any other Minister, PM INCLUDED, is exempt from the Civil Service code of conduct.

    So, if that applied then, I assume it still applies today. Whether or not Gordon would get reprimanded for using eBay out of lunch hour, I doubt!

    But I AM sure anything seen as undue hassling or harassment of staff,given the nature of a post in the PM's office/Cabinet Office would NOT be tolerated.

    -----------------------------------------------------------------

    You have a lot of confidence in that system. You will find that Ministers are bound by the Ministerial code not the Civil Service code.

  • Comment number 60.

    It's just symptomatic of one who cannot see the wood for the trees, immersed in his own fault free world. Simply disreputable.

  • Comment number 61.

    Dear coleusman #10

    Yes indeed you must be ex-civil service as you are very good at quoting the rules and protocols but have little understanding of how people react in such a difficult work environment.

    Do you really expect a junior member of staff who may have been 'bullied' by someone in a position such as a PM to report it through offical channels? Get real. I know in your world that its all about process and box ticking. Its just that box ticking in May will see many of 'your kind' getting real in job centre queues.

    We are a small island, over maanaged and over borrowed. We dont need you.

    We dont need Gordon either. Still think labour can win if he goes this week.

  • Comment number 62.

    I really don't care whether Brown bullied his team.
    On their behalf, if that was true, I hope they take a civil action against him.

    The guy was a useless Chancellor.

    Allowed a massive credit boom at private, corporate and governmetal level.

    Pretended that it all happened without anybody noticing.

    Well, I spotted it since 1998. About the time when I realised that my pension was being stuffed because Brown decided that the much-vaunted UK private pension schemes should be hammered.

    Man's an historian with a narrow focus. But an economic non-entity. Who left the UK in such a precarious economic situation? Brown.

    Take a second look?

    Fair for all? What about all those people who lost the 10p tax band?

    The man's detached from reality in terms of practical economic policies.

  • Comment number 63.

    This is very damaging to Brown and Labour, specifically because his Piers Morgan interview was supposed to say, "look, I'm a misunderstood nice guy"...

    Well it seems a number of people who've had to work with him believe quite the opposite.

    Brown made his character an issue, which I would have thought was always going to be a huge mistake.

    Had he not done the Piers Morgan interview, and not tried to sell himself as "not flash, just Gordon", then the (alleged) bullying would be a marginal issue. Now though, it is central to the Labour proposition, which is why is it so injurous to them.

  • Comment number 64.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 65.

    I think is time we face the real issues affecting us i.e the economy, jobs, NHS and spend less time on issues that will not move the country forward. BBC has not been fair to GB it seems and this is where we should be getting a balanced news. The more you carry out negative report regarding GB, the more he comes out stronger and the recently conducted polls by Yougov is a testimony. I will never be in support of bullying and nobody has truely come out to say he/she was bullied by GB. I am not an admire of GB, I have not decided if I'll vote at the next general election but if I must, I will cast my vote for GB and labour. Media's negation publicity on GB is turning counter-productive and this is making millions to have sympathy for him. I would advice that you give a balanced news and let the electorates decide who they want to vote for based on party's policies and manifestos.

  • Comment number 66.

    Nick,

    How can you give so much prominence to personality traits when this man has , more or less singlehandedly, brought the country to the knackers yard with excessive spending, taxation and borrowing.

    Please direct your blog to important policy matters.

  • Comment number 67.


    The National Bullying Helpline makes clear:

    "Your call is confidential to us and you will be treated with dignity and respect at all times.

    "There are no circumstances in which we would pass on your personal data without your explicit (written) consent."

    Is Mrs Pratt honouring the spirit of this assurance? I cannot see the rider...

    "But we reserve the right to reveal where you work to the national media." (?)

  • Comment number 68.

    35. At 9:33pm on 21 Feb 2010, yellowbelly wrote:
    'To all the Labour trolls posting on here in faux indignation, I know it must be difficult for you, but try to understand that if no personal details have been released by the National Bullying Helpline, then there can be no breach of confidentiality.

    Trying to smear Christine Pratt is pathetic, as well. In fact it could be construed as bullying!

    Labour - the nasty party.'

    Yes yes this is all very well. The facts are yet to come out but it all smells like Tory mischief to me. Of course when you have no policies and your lead is dwindling in the polls then it is easy to attack your fall guy. Many Prime Ministers have come and gone in my time and, with the exception of Thatcher, I have never seen a section of the voting populace and media being so hysterical in their hatred in regards to an individual, it is in effect bullying and it is a national disgrace.

  • Comment number 69.

    "Many Prime Ministers have come and gone in my time and, with the exception of Thatcher -"

    Aha, quelle surprise, haha! Watch out that you dont say her name three times, she'll come and eat your babies!

    "I have never seen a section of the voting populace and media being so hysterical in their hatred in regards to an individual, it is in effect bullying and it is a national disgrace."

    Ho, ho, ho! Deliciously ironic!

    Y'know, normally, I'd spend hours battling against the trolls to try and re-butt the re-butters, but this morning, I'm regarding all this frantic firefighting and mud throwing with more than a generous soupcon of amusement.

    Like watching the Tomantina festival from the safety of a 5th floor balcony in Bunol. Captivating entertainment.

    Ha, ha, ha.... get on with your fire-fighting, guys. As fast as you're putting out the flames, the curse of Jonah Brown is lighting other fires elsewhere. Do try and keep up with him!

    LMAO

  • Comment number 70.

    31. At 9:27pm on 21 Feb 2010, surreyquay wrote:
    The sooner Brown and this shambles of a government go the better.

    Wishful thinking methinks.

    GB and the Labour Party are actually getting stronger while recent months have shown the Tory party are very close to imploding. With major figures like Heseltine & Portillo saying at the weekend that the Tories are in disarray it really is only a matter of time. You cannot base an election campaign on scaremongering alone i.e. you need policies. And it is very evident the Tories do not have any policies. A truly hopeless party.

  • Comment number 71.

    "how prime ministers behave matters much less than what they achieve."

    It depends on the circumstances, Nick.

    I know you like comparing Brown with Churchill, but as ever your comparison is not valid.

    Churchill's achievement was saving us from the tyranny of an evil dictatorship that killed millions of innocent people and tried to commit genocide.

    Brown's achievement was destroying the financial system by setting up new structures that weren't capable of doing the job, creating the worst recession in history, a trillion pounds of public debt, a completely unsustainable private/public sector balance, eroding basic civil liberties, and bankrolling a war which most reasonable people think was sanctioned through the use of a lie and which wasn't based on our own protection.

    Do you see the difference yet, Nick? People would stomach a bully, or any weird character trait, if it was in the greater good to allow them to continue in their post. But if the bully has no redeeming characteristics at all, private or work/ability-wise, then where's your argument for them keeping their job?

  • Comment number 72.

    , 69. At 08:37am on 22 Feb 2010, Perry Neeham wrote:
    "Many Prime Ministers have come and gone in my time and, with the exception of Thatcher -"

    Aha, quelle surprise, haha! Watch out that you dont say her name three times, she'll come and eat your babies!

    "I have never seen a section of the voting populace and media being so hysterical in their hatred in regards to an individual, it is in effect bullying and it is a national disgrace."

    Ho, ho, ho! Deliciously ironic!'

    Yes I do believe you are a case in point. How stupidly ironic!

  • Comment number 73.

    While taking great care to not actually be libellous at any point, this blog stinks of a "no smoke without fire" attitude.

    I used to expect better from the BBC.

  • Comment number 74.

    Morrison, you're a stooge and all this empty p*ss and vinegar rhetoric is boring.

    Its like listening to a record with a scratch in it.

    Cant you find someone elses trouser leg to chew on, like a naughty Jack Russell terrier?

  • Comment number 75.

    Gordon Brown must be churning up inside. Imagine the battle, truth versus denial. The realisation that he has lost it and only has Mandleson left to support him, if that's what you call support. Mandleson has only one agenda, himself.
    Does Brown not realise that he is going to take labour to it's worst ever defeat.
    All of those years of nastiness and lies. Brown is now to reap what he has sown.

  • Comment number 76.

    "chevaline wrote:

    The National Bullying Helpline makes clear:

    "Your call is confidential to us and you will be treated with dignity and respect at all times.

    "There are no circumstances in which we would pass on your personal data without your explicit (written) consent."

    Is Mrs Pratt honouring the spirit of this assurance? I cannot see the rider...

    "But we reserve the right to reveal where you work to the national media." (?)"

    No personal data has been passed on - only that people who worked in that environment have made calls. Unless there are only four people working in No. 10 (or at least employed there - we all know the joke about people "working" in the civil service) nobody would be able to determine who made the calls.

    The person making the calls may even have left since the calls were made - I know that I would certainly consider doing so if I was bullied in the office and management seemed unwilling to tackle the problem.

    Noone has said Mr X or Mrs Y made a complaint, it is just nameless people who just happen to work in No 10.

    For all we know one of the people who phoned up could be Gordon Brown complaining that he felt bullied by the media or other ministers.

  • Comment number 77.

    "Andrew Morrison wrote:

    Yes yes this is all very well. The facts are yet to come out but it all smells like Tory mischief to me. Of course when you have no policies and your lead is dwindling in the polls then it is easy to attack your fall guy. Many Prime Ministers have come and gone in my time and, with the exception of Thatcher, I have never seen a section of the voting populace and media being so hysterical in their hatred in regards to an individual, it is in effect bullying and it is a national disgrace."

    Considering that many of the accusations are coming from books written by people who were previously close to New Labour and Brown I don't think you can blame this on Tory mischief - unless you believe that Tory spies have been planted close to the inner circle of New Labour for over a decade. If you believe that I would advise you go to the store by some tin foil and make yourself a nice hat as the Tories might be trying to control your mind right now.

    And it isn't just the Tories who don't have any policies - New Labour don't appear to have any either. They don't even have any new slogans - "A future fair for all" was used by New Labour about 7 years ago and their fightback slogan was used by the BNP. Still I think that it is good that New Labour are so keen on recycling!

  • Comment number 78.

    How very unprofessional and very worrying for people who expected 'confidentiality'.

    And by-the-way, when was Gordon Brown found guilty of the allegations?

  • Comment number 79.

    I have never been a fly on the wall in Downing Street but if Brown has sometimes shouted, thumped the table and told people to do things they didn't want to, well - that's what bosses do sometimes. It's called strong leadership. And only in nanny state politically correct Britain could anyone think there is anything wrong with that.

  • Comment number 80.

    Very timely, Tim, as I was just thinking of the 'no smoke without fire' thing as I reached the end of these comments. Also, it may very well be that Mrs Pratt has acted unwisely, although she may also be right to challenge what she sees as a complete rebuttal of allegations of bullying at No 10.

    One thing that does smell fishy, though, especially given my own experience with the Charity Commission, is Anne Snelgrove's claim that she parted company with the bullying helpline because Christine Pratt would not meet her without trustees/lawyers being present. The (now ex)chairman of a local trust liked to have similar conversations, in private, which conveniently left no paper trail if he made promises he didn't keep, or threats he couldn't follow through with. If I have to choose between someone who wants to have a 'little chat', as it were (and maybe at the same time raise the possibility of consequences for undesired behaviour?), and someone who wants a discussion to be held in all transparency, I know who I'll pick.

  • Comment number 81.

  • Comment number 82.

    @Coleusman
    you are either naive or disingenuous:
    firstly, very junior civil servants will not receive much protection from seniour civil servants if such protection reflects badly on those mandarins. Senior civil servants always have been "political" players, and always seeking their own advancement: if yoiu haven't observed that in the Service then you've had your eyes shut. Since Thatcher of course the overt politicisation has become apparent, but it is rare for a senior civil servant to argue with a political master rather than sacrifice a junior.

    Secondly, you misunderstand what bullying is: it needn't be repeaterd, one incident can be enough to count.

    Finally, no civil servant that I know of enters the Service to do a job where they are treated badly, needlessly. They are people trying to do the best they can for the country: unlike too many politicians

  • Comment number 83.

    Moderators removed my aside #64, so I try again:

    This episode starting with Rawnsley's serialisation in The Observer was in the news on BBC World Service - I wonder how our international competitors and detractors think of this Government apropos?

    Naomi Campbell was convicted of bullying in general and throwing Nokias in particular, and to her credit she underwent consequent counselling.

    Which of these transgressions do you find more intolerable in our politicians - marital infidelity (Mellor et al), alcoholism (Kennedy), lying to the Commons and alleged corruption in citizen application (Mandelson), feudal succession to the highest office of the land (Brown), pantomiming on Morgan's show (Brown)?

    United Kingdom was a country people and states around the world looked up to once upon a time.

    Brown may have worked hard for Blair to vacate the seat for him - how many Ministers have given up their post or stood down from politics in the last two year doing the same to unseat him? Six? Ten?

    Apart from ability - not to mention mandate - a Prime Minister should also possess some class and grace. These the present incumbent patently lacks.

    As I said earlier, I shudder in revulsion.

  • Comment number 84.

    Crime of passion is no defence against bullying.

    Lord Mandelson’s claim on Andrew Marr’s BBC programme yesterday that Mr Brown is not a bully, but some who is “passionate” about his work is not a good enough defence. It is a typical plea for leniency in domestic violence in which insecure husbands and wives routinely abuse and even murdered their partners in what the lawyers call a “crime of passion.” This fit in neatly with Mr Brown’s behaviour

    A “crime of passion,” is loosely defined as defendant's excuse for committing a crime due to sudden anger or heartbreak, in order to eliminate the element of "premeditation." This usually arises in murder or attempted murder cases, when a spouse or sweetheart finds his/her "beloved" having sexual intercourse with another and shoots or stabs one or both of the coupled pair.

    In some cases, victims of domestic violence can ask the judge to exercise leniency. For example, Lord Mandelson who once said that Gordon Brown was out to destroy him has now told the court of public opinion that Mr Brown may have been acting out of passion.

    Confusedvoter
    Ealing central and Acton Constituency
    W3

  • Comment number 85.

    '74. At 09:54am on 22 Feb 2010, Perry Neeham wrote:
    Morrison, you're a stooge and all this empty p*ss and vinegar rhetoric is boring.

    Its like listening to a record with a scratch in it.

    Cant you find someone elses trouser leg to chew on, like a naughty Jack Russell terrier?'

    Predictable and laughable, but yet very sad. Another right winger who cannot take an opposing view.

  • Comment number 86.

    77. At 10:48am on 22 Feb 2010, Mark_WE wrote:

    'Still I think that it is good that New Labour are so keen on recycling!

    You know I do believe that is the most sensible statement that I have read from you. Of course I agree entirely, a truly worthy cause.


 

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