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Remember Jennifer's ear?

Nick Robinson | 13:30 UK time, Monday, 22 February 2010

A long long time ago in the run-up to the election of 1992 the Westminster village worked itself up into a frenzy and even gave a name to it - "the war of Jennifer's ear". I sense that Labour are trying to recreate something similar in the row about Gordon Brown's alleged bullying which, inevitably, some are already dubbing "bullygate".

Gordon BrownWay back then a Labour Party election broadcast which was based on the case of two little girls who had treatment for glue ear - one privately, one in the NHS. For three days, the election campaign was dominated by charge and counter-charge about whether the cases were genuine and about how the identity of one of the girls was leaked to the media. At the time Labour thought the row was good for them. Later many in the party concluded it had been at best a distraction and at worst highly damaging as people focused on how the party had behaved and not on the issue of the NHS that might have moved votes.

So it is that Peter Mandelson - who you may recall was rather heavily involved in that 1992 campaign - is now claiming that there is a "political operation" to undermine the prime minister. He has yet to say what he means by that or to provide any proof of it.

There are private nudges and winks that Christine Pratt who runs the National Bullying Helpline is a Conservative supporter. She denies any involvement with the party, although Ann Widdecombe and a Tory councillor are among the patrons of her charity and that charity has been endorsed by David Cameron.

Separately there are questions - which I wrote about last night - about whether she has risked breaching the confidentiality of those who call her helpline. Today one of her patrons resigned in protest at her actions. There are also questions about whether she uses her charity to channel business to her and her husband's company.

Finally, under enormous pressure, she has been unclear about the details of the complaints her helpline received.

All interesting and well worth pursuing - which we are.

All, however, distracts from the central issue of Gordon Brown's behaviour.

This morning the prime minister's official spokesman repeatedly failed to deny the claim in Andrew Rawnsley's book that the Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell had spoken to Gordon Brown about his treatment of staff, instead simply stating that:

"The role of the Cabinet Secretary is to ensure the Civil Service supports the Prime Minister to the best effect and that the Prime Minister is getting the best out of the Civil Service".

He continues to insist that this conversation did not amount to a "verbal warning".

Is Lord Mandelson suggesting that the "political operation" he claims exists involves not just Andrew Rawnsley, the Labour Party and civil service sources he quotes extensively and the Observer which serialised his book but also the National Bullying Helpline, the BBC, ITV and Sky which ran her claims last night and, presumably, the Conservative Party as well?

Update 1610: Peter Mandelson has pointed out that in 1992 he played "absolutely no role" in Labour's national campaign and spent it campaigning in Hartlepool. I am happy to clarify.

Comments

Page 1 of 6

  • Comment number 1.

    Mandelson would deny being interviewed by the BBC yesterday if it were political expedient.

    He said today also that there was an odour about this now - he should know!

    If I needed to be given a reason not to vote Labour it would be him.

  • Comment number 2.

    Mandelson clearly knows the bullying goes on. He is doing his best to try and deflect the media from this by claiming political motives.

  • Comment number 3.

    Why don't you ask him, Nick? And keep asking until you get something that resembles an answer?

    Why not go see him now with a camera crew? I'm sure he can't be far away and you can put the interview on tonight's news.

    And while you're at it, you could also ask him about aluminium tariffs, dodgy mortgages, and all manner of other matters of public interest that the Dark Lord has spent so much of his energy trying to deflect attention from.

  • Comment number 4.

    Or, perhaps, the Helpline has been contacted by three people from Number 10 and that, in time honoured fashion, Mandy is simply giving the press something shiny to look at?

    Nice and distracting.

  • Comment number 5.

    Ah yes - shoot the messenger as usual. Mandelson should know about this type of thing - he, Bliar, Clown, and Campbell, engaged in it for years. Defending the indefensible - normal Labour lies, spin, muck throwing, and diverting attention away from the REAL problem - a useless unfit for purpose person as PM, who has, with Mandelson and Co, dragged this country to the state of printing money and bankruptcy.

    I know where my vote will be going come Election and it will NOT be to this corrupt shower in Govt at present.

  • Comment number 6.

    So having gone all around the houses with this ridiculous analogy the BBC's conclusion is the Lord Mandleson is as paranoid as his boss.

    'Infamy, infamy, they've all got it in for me'

    The words were made for Brown and Mandleson.

    And now that the newlbaour aplogists haev established the party line; it's a tory conspiracy and Gordon is just like that...where is Harriet Harman to tell us he's equally rude to evertone and everyone has an opportunity for him to be rude to them.

    Call an election.

  • Comment number 7.

    Well you can't blame the Labour party for rounding on Pratt and her charity. She said she felt compelled to question Mandelson's denial of Brown's bullying - but this morning admitted that there were in fact no direct complaints about Brown's bullying.

    She has smeared with ineuendo, and then hidden behind confidentiality - confidentiality that she herself has compromised.

    You say the central issue is Gordon Brown's behaviour. It would help if you, Rawnsley and the others had some sources willing to go on the record about it. But you don't.

    Pipe down.

  • Comment number 8.

    Considering his behaviour/attitude in public (e.g. PMQs), why is this such a surprise?

  • Comment number 9.

    What is the bad news that all this malarkey is covering up ???

    It would appear to me, that yes the timing of the book is some what fortuitous, but the content is not at question, if it was i am sure writs would be flying about by now.

    as for Lord Peter suggesting there is a Political Operation under way to undermine the prime minister, well he should know all about that part of the political game they all play...

    Meanwhile, back in the real world people in my area people are beyond caring about these sideshows, its the major issues that matter to them and they are not going away and are getting worse...and they all know who was the mastermind of the problem.....he told us so !!!!

  • Comment number 10.

    I was nice to see "Biffa Brown's" loyal attack dog "Knacka Prescott" sticking up for him today. But I don't think that Knacka going bright red and ranting at the BBC is doing Biffa any favours.

  • Comment number 11.

    Whats the old saying that we've been hearing recently as part of a trailer??

    Just because you think you may be paranoid, it doesnt mean that they're not all out to get you....

  • Comment number 12.

    THERE IS NO SMOKE WITHOUT FIRE

    Even if you ignore the latest hoo ha and look at this in the round there seems to be evidence from several sources over the years suggesting there is some kind of real issue here. Labours agressive response is merely a reflection of the extent of their fear. Spinner in chief mandelson is busy trying to make bullying look like ' a demanding and committed passionate leader' at the moment, when of course they are quite different.


    Throw into the mix that GB is not averse to employing someone like Damien McBride and the sort of tactics he employed and fell on his sword for and it stacks up to ...something...

    The even bigger picture is how sad our politics has become, bereft of any genuine ideological difference or vision between parties to debate we are reduced to a personality and credibility squabble as to who can restore and already broadly discredited economic model which relies on 'eternal growth' on a planet that is already full to bursting and starting to fight each other over available resources to 'maintain growth'...( Iraq..falklands past and present)...but noboddy ever talks about that.......

    What a bunch of visionless deluded chumps we have for ''leaders' (HA!!).


  • Comment number 13.

    Any comment about a politician could be dismissed as mere politcal posturing, and the ridiculous fuss that both politicians and the media make tend to support that view. Anyone would think that their antics were important!

    But bleating about political posturing is a smokescreen. If an elected public servant is claimed to have done wrong, there is no virtue in hiding behind a claim that it's "just politics" - their behaviour should be investigated and if it is indeed wrongful necessary action, including prosecution if appropriate, be taken.

    If the politician genuinely feels that there is no grounds for the claims, a lawsuit for libel (or slander if t'were spoken) or defamation of character is the best way to demonstrate that he is indeed squeaky-clean.

    Else doubt remains, and with the media and your political enemies hovering around, doubt is almost as bad as proof!

  • Comment number 14.

    In answer to a parliamentary question, the government has already stated that bullying/harassment occured in the Offices of the PM and/or Leader of the House. So Mandleson's denial this morning about any bullying taking place would seem to be just wrong.

    See:

    HANSARD 4 MARCH 2009

    Departmental Disciplinary Proceedings

    Grant Shapps: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many staff in (a) the Prime Minister’s Office and (b) the Leader of the House’s Office were disciplined for (i) bullying and (ii) harassment of colleagues in each of the last three years. [254077]

    Mr. Watson: It is not the policy of the Cabinet Office to release personal data relating to individual staff. I can confirm that in the period specified, there were fewer than five cases in the Department where staff were disciplined for bullying and harassment of colleagues. It would not be appropriate to provide a further breakdown.

  • Comment number 15.

    Lord Mandleson and John Prescott (and no doubt others) seem to be engaged in what can only be described as bullying tactics - putting down Christine Pratt, blaming everything on a Tory conspiricy etc.

    What they should be doing is proving that no bullying has taken place at Number 10 - all they are doing at the moment is showing those who do bully in the workplace that the response is to shout down the accusers.

    Bullying is a serious issue and the Labour Party should be showing the proper respect that this issue deserves.

    They are crying 'breach of confidentiality' when they should be praising and protecting Christine Pratt for whistleblowing (something they would no doubt be doing at this moment if the accusations were levelled at David Cameron)

    Please be open about this issue Gordon and let the country see that accusations of bullying are dealt with seriously - no matter who is being accused

  • Comment number 16.

    I think you'll find Peter Mandelson was a great deal less involved with the 1992 Labour campaign than you imagine. He was away in Hartlepool fighting for his own election for most of the time.

  • Comment number 17.

    Are we all forgetting how badly he has managed the economy. I do not care what he does in private but the fact we may need to go to the IMF for an emergency loan just goes to show how a long term in governement changes a party. It is time for a change and as we only have 1 contender I believe the Conservatives need to be voted in to sort out the mess once again. It will be Labours turn in a decade.

  • Comment number 18.

    One would have to conclude that the Labour Party in general, and The Crashmeister's closest advisers in particular, have missed a massive opportunity here. The initial rebuttal exercise of portaying Brown as someone so passionate about "doing the right thing", he occasionally bruised a few egos, had the potential to douse this fire completely. The ill considered intervention of a self-serving "charity" need not have derailed this approach. A straightforward re-statement of the Civil Service code of conduct and grievance procedures could have resolved the matter in that regard. Anonymous complaints carry no weight beyond unfounded smears and can be treated as such.

    However, the willingness to engage in this war, bordering on blood-lust, among Labour's favourite, pet media talking heads, risks the very real risk of a backlash significantly more potent than either Rawnsley's book, or Ms Pratt's accustions could have created. Meddlesome has already been caught "mis-speaking" and the more that the "Brown as victim" line is spun, the more chance there is that an actual target of the bullying culture at the head of government (for whilst it cannot be stated categorically that Brown is a bully without evidence, it cannot be denied that such a culture exists) will come forward to corroborate Rawnsley or Ms Pratt. If he/she does come forward, Brown is finished.

    Even without such a first-hand witness going on the record, all this now does is maintain the image of Brown as the "Prime Monster" in peoples' minds a little bit longer than necessary. Where is the possible benefit in that, electorally?

    Unless of course, this is just a means of keeping the electorate's attention away from the car crash that is the UK economy for as long as possible. Anything that achieves that must be good for Brown, I suppose.

  • Comment number 19.

    Forget Mandelson's attempt to divert attention towards his criticism of Mrs Pratt, what goes to the heart of the matter is whether or not the country can really trust the judgement of a man who is, allegedly, prone to such dreadful outbursts as the ones that so many accounts point to, including, should we not forget, the accounts of ministers who have resigned in protest at the culture of bullying at No 10...

    Are we really in safe hands? Or should we be looking for someone who is far calmer, more reasoned and less offensive?

    http://cogitodexter.wordpress.com/2010/02/22/never-mind-the-smoke-look-for-the-light/

  • Comment number 20.

    "there are claims we are lying and bullying"
    "outrageous! What shall we do?"
    "Well, first we'll lie about them...and if that fails we'll bully a woman who exposes our lies."
    "that ought to show them."
    Indeed.

  • Comment number 21.

    It seems like it is nick robinson who is on the defensive here. This woman will have no credibility ultimately because she has no credibility, no other hidden reason. Rawnsley and his paper have an agenda... sell books and re-launch an ailing paper. This is old re-hashed nonsense by tory supporting journalists (like nick robinson/andrew neil)with an agenda. I am not surprised with anything sky news comes out with... they are slowly but surely turning into their sister station Fox News BUT I think we should expect better than this nonsense from the BBC>

  • Comment number 22.

    Nick

    is the Mandleson fellow the same one mentioned here?


    'Mendacious Mandelson' duped BBC into Chris Patten smear


    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1250880/Mendacious-Mandelson-duped-BBC-Chris-Patten-smear.html


    Why oh why do we have keep talking about this twice resigned unelected nobody

  • Comment number 23.

    Bear in mind, a political operation does not have to include the people and organisations who spread the word, such as the BBC or the Observer. I don't for one minute think that Mandelson is claiming that - but it could be orchestrated by other people, the fact that the BBC and Sky repeat what is said, doesnt make them the orchestrators.

    Also, the charity claimed that people from No. 10 had "downloaded infromation from their website". I am skeptical that they can be that specific - it could be people who work int he cabinet office, or any government department, and downloading information doesnt imply that they needed it. I might download some information about breastfeeding- doesnt mean I need it - it would be for my wife.

    I have to admit I would be very worried about reporting any harrasment at my workplace to an organisation that will go on national tv to blab about it in a way which could identify me.

    It wouldnt suprise me if the press arn't now trying to identify the individuals who contacted the charity - not good.

  • Comment number 24.

    Get a grip. I've always considered myself conservative. But at the next election I'll be voting Labour. And my wife thinks the same. Why? Because, Nick, we don't want to be told who to vote for, thank you. I'm intelligent enough to think for myself and interpret policies/situations. I know a lot of people that feel the same. They are sick of being told what to thing. Whether it is the BCC, or the Sun, we have had enough!!

  • Comment number 25.

    All of the Labour party's energy seems to be on discreditting Pratt and her organisation, this is a wee bit like the old Soviet system where the way out of trouble was to discredit the opposition. This seems to be one lesson the Labour party learned and retained from their mentors the communist party. Maybe Brown, who in opposition loved to call for public inquiries, might like to allow an independent inquiry into his behaviour towards his underlings. If it's all untrue, then he has nothing to worry about.

  • Comment number 26.

    My word, don't you people have anything better to write about? "Professional journalism" in this country is in a truly dire state.

  • Comment number 27.


    Jennifer’s Ear! Those were the days… Anyway:

    It’s blatantly obvious the allegations about Gordon Brown’s behaviour are true, because nobody’s doing any suing.

    Such behaviour could be excused though – a heat of the moment reaction, a passionate outburst, letting off steam at whoever/whatever was to hand – in the context of a caring leader having a genuine, but misguided, human reaction. As has been mentioned elsewhere, many undeniably great leaders had or have similar characteristics. If the Labour reaction to the story was to admit it outright and say Brown had acknowledged his bad behaviour and apologised, it would be today’s chip-wrappers.

    But instead of being on the front foot with this, the Labour spin-machine has gone into defence overdrive with its flat denials from all and sundry (and let’s face it, none of them were flies on the walls during the alleged events, so how could they possibly know the facts?). No chance of it being chip-wrappers now, in fact the whole affair’s getting fishier by the minute!

  • Comment number 28.

    Nick

    Have you asked the Cabinet Office what the internal procedures are for investigating alleged bullying of staff by MPs and ministers rather than by civil servants? Are there independent channels that staff can go to for help?

  • Comment number 29.

    'Peter Mandelson... is now claiming that there is a "political operation" to undermine the prime minister.'
    Aren't they called the Blairites?

  • Comment number 30.

    Nick
    The connection with Jennifers ear is the attempt to politicise and personalise an issue at the same time. As Christine Pratt has. There have to be some questions to investigate the political neutrality of the The Anti Bullying hotline.

    There are some inconvenient facts regarding the organisation which are available on the charity commissions website.

    Christine Pratts organisation did not file accounts for the end of the 2008 financial year. In 2006-7 they turned over £800-£1200 How big an operation are they, why would someone contact them rather than the substantially bigger Bullying UK?

    There are only 4 trustees named in their submissions. One is her husband. What is the relationship between the charity and business interests of trustees?

    She claims their premises is gifted by the business community. - This is an unusual situation which business gives her the premises and what are there political affiliations?

    How can she run a helpline without any money? Who pays the bills?



  • Comment number 31.

    Nick, Did you actually read the quote?

    Mandelson said "It now looks like more of a political operation". He clearly described his impression of recent events. Why would he require proof?

    Do you have proof "that Labour are trying to recreate something similar (to Jennifer's ear)"? If so you have yet to provide it.

    Can you not see your own bias here?

    Pratt has been completely undermined (mainly by herself), which leaves some vague quotes from a book with no direct source. Unless someone from the PMs office actually whistle-blows and makes a complaint this is all just waffle (and in your case biased waffle). So far all the noise from number 10 has been supportive of the PM.


  • Comment number 32.

    Well, Nick. Perhaps this is a smallish issue (but I don't honestly think so), but, just sometimes there areimportant moral issues at stake. I have watched the TV and blogs closely over the last day. There is, as you will know very well, a major No 10 smear campaign out to divert attention (calling Rawnsley a liar in effect) and then attacking Ms Pratt, and now making it political (it's a Tory plot). Add in breach of confidentiality defence (relevant) and "he's passionate" (guaranteed to attract the journalist/media class who are bullies all too frequently).So, do you let them get away with this? Do our media have any responsibility to stop the Mandelsons of this world, or is he just too "clever" that you all have to admire him and just go along with it.It's an important moment this, Nick. In reality it does not matter whether Ms Pratt should have done what she did. What matters is the Government reaction (which you well know, and indeed allude to). They destroy. They destroy. Our country cannot have this any more.They are unfit to lead for this reason.

  • Comment number 33.

    Nick

    Is Lord Mandelson suggesting that the "political operation" he claims exists involves not just Andrew Rawnsley, the Labour Party and civil service sources he quotes extensively and the Observer which serialised his book but also the National Bullying Helpline, the BBC, ITV and Sky which ran her claims last night and, presumably, the Conservative Party as well?


    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

    Anyone who saw his recent alarming performance on a Channel 4 news interview with Ken Clarke can be be in no doubt of his desperation to stop anyone else getting there views across.

    It even included him leaning across in front of Clarke so as to block him from view.

    Clarke had to tell him to calm down

  • Comment number 34.

    A formal verbal warning is usually communicated in writing: a bit like an economist really. So if there was a verbal warning then it is written down somewhere. This means there needs to be a letter. Is there such a letter?

    This raise an interesting thought: if the Prime Minister gets a verbal warning, followed by a written warning and then a final warning, who is it who sacks him? This could easily get out of hand into a constitutional crisis.

    The poltical issue is the economy and our pending bankruptcy, not the mood of the Prime Minister.

  • Comment number 35.

    The fact that this subject has been brought into the public domain means that there should be some kind of investigation to ensure the rights of anyone working in this area are looked after if it was the any other public service the goverment would wade in with their big stick

  • Comment number 36.

    BBC news at 10pm on 18/01/2006

    "There have been no charges and no arrested" was the lead about the F4J alledged Kidnap plot of Leo Blair that had been all over the SUN newspaper that day, but the damage had been done, F4J disbanded in disgrace not because there was a plot but becasue they could not fight the HMG machine of Nu_labour and other agenices, because they got to close for comfort to the truth for NU_liebour's perspective.

    The writing has been on the wall for many years about how ZaNu_liebour have been destroying democracy .

  • Comment number 37.

    22#

    What, the same one who has just lied his @rse off at a press conference?

    From Guido, backed up by info I posted from DizzyThinks this morning, sourced from Hansard...

    "Mandy just told a press conference that “we’ve seen no evidence of bullying in Number 10.” He is on the attack and spinning away. Perhaps though he should have reconsidered his choice of words given the fact Tom Watson told the House in March 2009:

    “I can confirm that in the period specified (2007-2009), there were fewer than five cases in the Department where staff were disciplined for bullying and harassment of colleagues. It would not be appropriate to provide a further breakdown.”

    So there have been confirmed cases, while Gordon was PM, that were investigated. Sounds like evidence of bullying no?"

  • Comment number 38.

    What a furore about nothing!
    We have soldiers fighting a war and this media frenzy about Gordon alledgedly raising his voice at someone, hands up anyone who hasn't "lost it", the PM is in a high pressure job give him a break.
    Any clown can see this is character assassination by the Tory media and his political enemies.

  • Comment number 39.

    24. At 2:23pm on 22 Feb 2010, f12009 wrote:
    Get a grip. I've always considered myself conservative. But at the next election I'll be voting Labour. And my wife thinks the same. Why? Because, Nick, we don't want to be told who to vote for, thank you. I'm intelligent enough to think for myself and interpret policies/situations. I know a lot of people that feel the same. They are sick of being told what to thing. Whether it is the BCC, or the Sun, we have had enough!!

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

    That's got to be the funniest thing I've read for weeks.

    Please do keep it up.

  • Comment number 40.

    When you have such a high quality defence containing Mandleson, Prescott, Geoffrey Robinson and 'Mad Hattie' Harman, you know there's a real problem at No. 10. The PM clearly has a management style which makes Alan Sugar look like Noddy. Brown has mood swings and there can be little confidence among his staff if they don't know if they're going to be greeted by his unnerving unnatural gurning grin, or by a violent outburst of rage. If he's not a bully then he certainly is an overbearing individual whose man-management technique is woeful.

  • Comment number 41.


    This is all getting very messy, particularly over the way the damage limitation has been handled.

    As you say, questions over Pratt are "worth pursuing" maybe Nick. But isn't there a danger here of simply following the Downing Street spinning line of attack?

    And are you not in danger of losing sight of the story which is getting bogged down in fog of fudge?

    The allegations carried over from the 24 news cycle. It now looks like they'll run and run.

    However it is dressed up, isn't there still a central issue of alleged workplace bullying to be addressed?


    http://theorangepartyblog.blogspot.com/2010/02/bully-boy-brown-has-legs.html

  • Comment number 42.

    Who cares whether GB is a bully or not - I don't. I want him to run the country. Can't imagine there are too many shrinking violets employed at No. 10. If it is too hot, jump out of the fire!

    The whole thing is obviously a diversion to protect people from yet another Tory policy - giving bank shares to the poor!

  • Comment number 43.

    21#

    "sell books and re-launch an ailing paper. This is old re-hashed nonsense by tory supporting journalists"

    What?

    The Observer and The Guardian, "ailing" and "tory supporting"???


    Hahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahaha!! Brilliant!

  • Comment number 44.

    "Colleagues checked the status of the charity and questioned Ms Pratt's claims. We can't, of course, verify the truth of her allegations - merely report them and Downing Street's response to them"
    - If you can't verify them then why report them?
    She said:
    "We are not suggesting that Gordon Brown is a bully"
    - so what is this story about then? Thank god you're not suggesting he's not a necrophyle or he'd be in real trouble!
    She also said:
    "Outright denial is just non-credible in today's age".
    - unless, of course, the accusations aren't true - surely? In the which case outright denial is the only option.

  • Comment number 45.

    Stupid@7 wrote:
    She said she felt compelled to question Mandelson's denial of Brown's bullying - but this morning admitted that there were in fact no direct complaints about Brown's bullying.


    >>

    Yes, it's oddly inconsistent, isn't it? Makes you wonder what her real motives were.

  • Comment number 46.

    Nick, you are clearly not comparing Gordon Brown to Winston Churchill...

    I've never been a Gordon Brown fan, or voted Labour, but I can't help thinking that this is all a little silly. I don't really care whether Gordon has rounded on a telephonist, or data clerk or analyst at number 10. It the seat of the British executive, so is likely to be a stressful place to work. If you can't deal with that stress, asked to be moved departments.

    As for Mandelson, I think every other party would love to have him on their side. I have never seen anyone with a greater ability to avoid the question - a true political operator. Gordon Brown must be thanking his lucky stars he has Mandelson.

  • Comment number 47.

    Comment 24 is a bit mixed up we are looking at bullying not who to vote for . Its that persons right to vote in any way they wish however i have never heard the bbc tell anyone to vote for the Conservites ,as far as I see you and the bbc are camped right in the heart of new labour but that discussion is for another blog

  • Comment number 48.

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

  • Comment number 49.

    I should like it to be known that I have not received a warning, verbal or otherwise, for the systematic bullying that my brain applies to my hands on a regular basis, particularly when commenting on non-stories.

    I think, based upon past behaviour patterns, that we should be worrying about what is taking place behind the scenes that needs a smoke screen like this be put up.

  • Comment number 50.

    I also heard somewhere that you were a Conservative, Nick. Is that true?

  • Comment number 51.

    SweetA @ last thread

    No, I don't think homophobic comments are ever acceptable.

    If my tongue-in-cheek comment about public school antics came across to you as homophobic and caused offense, I apologize. (No pun intended.)

    If, on the other hand, you're just latching onto the accusation of homophobia in order to criticize somebody whose views you generally disagree with, then I retract the apology!

    Delete as applicable.

  • Comment number 52.

    Nick, you say that some are dubbing this 'bullygate'. But on Twitter the trending topic is now 'Prattgate'. This woman has made a total ass of herself. On the 'Today' programme, she was forced to admit that her so-called Helpline had received no complaints against Gordon Brown.

    Rawnsley's book, as admitted even by Adam Boulton of Sky News, contains little or nothing that is new. You are chasing needles on pins with your refusal to accept the Cabinet secretary's denial that he gave Brown some sort of verbal warning.

    Just one other point, Nick. Are you still a member of the Conservative Party ? I know you can't be politically active as a BBC employee, but you are allowed to be a Party member. So please tell us whether you are or not. I think we should be told.

  • Comment number 53.

    nick

    why the cock-eyed view? The NOTW was fined £800,000 because of Andy Coulson's bullying, here: www.guardian.co.uk/media/2009/nov/23/andy-coulson-now-bullying-payout

    Cameron himself has been accused of being a bully by former employees at Carlton TV. So you have a bully in Cameron employing a convicted bully in Coulson saying bullying is bad. It is. But why the silence on the subject from reporters like you? Clearly hyprocrisy is only a bad thing if it comes from Brown, when it comes from Cameron or the media it's okay.

  • Comment number 54.

    "Is Lord Mandelson suggesting that the "political operation" he claims exists involves not just Andrew Rawnsley, the Labour Party and civil service sources he quotes extensively and the Observer which serialised his book but also the National Bullying Helpline, the BBC, ITV and Sky which ran her claims last night and, presumably, the Conservative Party as well? "

    If the cap fits - and I'll have to be honest - as far as the BBC's standards of impartiality go recently, I'd have to say it does. As for the rest, it might just all be a coincidence that all these bad news allegations, and most of them do appear to be just allegations, all turn up at the most damaging possible moment, but it doesn't half give the impression of someone pulling the strings.

  • Comment number 55.

    "Lime Candy wrote:

    Jennifer’s Ear! Those were the days… Anyway:

    It’s blatantly obvious the allegations about Gordon Brown’s behaviour are true, because nobody’s doing any suing."

    Doesn't automatically follow, they may feel that any court case would do more damage than the actual allegations.

    Such a court case even if it finds 100% in favour of Gordon Brown would do damage to the party - not something they would want in the run up to a general election.

  • Comment number 56.

    What should have alerted the BBC to be careful is that the charity commission website shows that this charity's accounts are 207 days overdue and that its most recent annual income was under £2000.

    Doesn't this put the claims of its "chief executive" into proportion?

    See website at www.charity-commission.gov.uk/ShowCharity/RegisterOfCharities/CharityWithoutPartB.aspx?RegisteredCharityNumber=1117852&SubsidiaryNumber=0 link.

  • Comment number 57.

    Surely it undeniable that there is and has been for many months a "political operation" to undermine Gordon Brown. Of course there is also one to undermine David Cameron. Such is the nature of personalised politics.

    The main difference seems to me to be that the operation against Gordon Brown has the active support of several media heavyweights. He also has to suffer continual sniping from former Blair supporters, who feel that he was not sufficiently loyal to Tony. David Cameron is lucky in that he has the backing of wealthy newspaper barons. The many grandees in his party, who must be unhappy with his position on global warming and his inviting Ken Clarke into his shadow cabinet, are also keeping fairly quite at the moment.

  • Comment number 58.

    Here we are debating the character of the PM, when the evidence is all around us. We are destroying the future for our children and grand children with morally repugnant levels of public borrowing. We are seeing good jobs disappear at Redcar, because the EU is subsidising Tata to move British jobs to India in the name of global warming.

    We are heading for meltdown at a frightening speed, it won't be long before we have a ratings downgrade and a Sterling crisis.

    All the above demonstrates the character of the man who was Chancellor for 10 years and self selected PM for 3. Brown is a bully, he bullied his way to the top and now he and his party have been found out, all they can do is resort to smear, spin, lies and innuendo.

    Enough! Clean out these stables! Whatever else happens, Brown and his motley crew must be swept into the dustbin of history!

  • Comment number 59.

    Another distraction when the UK faces its greatest test since WW2 in the face of political and economic mayhem.

    Another reason why a British PM must behave impeccably at all times is that, otherwise, 'distractions' can occur when the PM and Britain as a whole should be dealing with the major problems of the day.

    Whether or not Brown may, indeed, in time, become a proven bully as part of yet another legitimate enquiry - is secondary I'd say, to the point that gets over-looked:

    A PM who allows themselves and others around them to become 'distracted' is unfit to be 'in office'. Those around him in the Labour government who seek to escalate and spin the conspiracy defence and make this into a political game - again for distraction purposes, are also unfit to be 'in office'.

    Otherwise, Brown attracts so much bad news and ridicule that the combined British media struggle to deal with the unfolding story without being able to deal (at the same time) with issues like - current NHS 'cuts' which are squeezing elderly people in England with their care and drug treatments. Bizaare as it sounds - this bullying rumour - and that's all it is - is not the largest of Brown's current problems?

    Hopefully, the day of reckoning will be on us all soon.

  • Comment number 60.

    I have a suggestion for a labour campaign song. Wooly Bully by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs. The song even has a reference to Hatty, how apt.
    By the way Nick, with all this attention on Mandleson, how did he afford that £3 million villa in London. Socialist toffs, whatever next.

  • Comment number 61.

    Could labour not issue a super injunction on any further stories that are not to their liking?

  • Comment number 62.

    Nowhere near good enough, Nick.

    You've failed to check out the story, you've failed to check out the source and you've failed to check out the motive for such a fundamental breach of confidentiality.

    And now Mrs Pratt has rowed back from her original assertion and even appears to be claiming that someone from the Deputy PM's office has been in touch in the last 18 months over "bullying" when there hasn't been a Deputy PM since 2007.

    I'm afraid you've been had, and it's painful to watch you squirm.

  • Comment number 63.


    Conclusions:

    (a) Gordon Brown is probably a bit of a bully. But then, who got to the top of a political party, or any other large organisation for that matter, without being such? The ability to climb on others shoulders and then walk all over them is required on the CV.

    (b) The lady in question appears to have no admissible evidence of bullying: and has made no allegation regarding any specific act or behaviour. Moreover, she has, at best, questionable motives for knowing and/or suggesting that people from No10 have called her helpline.

    (c) The Tories intend to focus on Gordon Brown's character as a main election issue.

    (d) Labour intend to spin this episode as a Tory "dirty trick", whether it is or not.

    The choice fcing the voters in a couple of months has not changed one iota!

  • Comment number 64.

    They've published the date of Browns appearance before the Iraqi war committee, right in the middle of this. Now the next question is, what can they think up between now and then to provide a smoke screen for the boss, the man who has nothing to hide.

  • Comment number 65.

    Bring on Paxman to ask Gordon straight and keep asking the same question until he gets a straight answer.

    He tried the same tactic with Michael Howard and made Howard look a fool.

    This is Gordon's "there will be no whitewash in the White House" moment. Surely he can come out and make a clear statement one way or the other.




  • Comment number 66.

    I don't really see the analogy between Jennifer's Ear and Gordon Brown's alleged outbursts. I truly hope that the press will leave Jen alone this general election. As a family we have had to endure doorstepping every general election since and she is an adult and mother now with a professional career that publicity could ruin. Please, please refrain from digging up my daughter's unfortunate brush with politics and the media. It is usually reported inaccurately and sensationalised. Thank you.

  • Comment number 67.

    This Government have been supposed champions of eliminating bullying and harassment in the workplace, actively encouraging people to make themselves heard when they feel victims. Their actions though, show a beast which seeks to ridicule and discredit the victims.
    And then there's the ultimate bully: Mandelson.

  • Comment number 68.

    I note Christine Pratt has stated that she has had further contact from staff that have named Brown, just this morning.

    She should be very careful with further contacts.

    There will be people looking to plant information in the hope that it is revealed by her, and then easily shown to be false - so calling all her claims into question.

    Whilst everyone in Westminster seems to know what Browns character is like, and slowly, people are admitting it, whilst trying to put a spin on it, they will be doing their utmost to make this story one about the charity, and not one about the bully.

    If they discredit the charity they hope that the bully will be forgotten about...

    But the claims were made before the charity became involved, the charity simply provided yet another piece of evidence (as if the media needed more).

    Even the former General Secretary, on the Daily Politics today, admitted that the claims made in the book about Brown, had a ring of truth about them, from his own experiences with Brown. He confirmed this whilst trying to put across positive messages about Brown, so it can be seen as an unbiased assessment from a former senior Labour Party Officer.

  • Comment number 69.

    Of course this is politically motivated, we are so near to having a general election! It give's us all an extra reason to question "do we want another 5 years of Labour!". I definately don't! The quicker we have an election the better.

  • Comment number 70.

    I'm glad you're following up Christine Pratt's apparent uncertainty about the details of the allegations received by the NBH. So you should be. Rarely have I seen such a rush to run a story based on unsubstantiated material - the BBC, the Observer, the Guardian. Very disappointing.

    What will you all be saying if, as seems entirely possible, Christine Pratt's tales unravel? She even said today that complaints had come from the DEPUTY PM's office. There hasn't been one of those since 2007. Good for Gary Gibbon of Channel 4 to spot this little oddity.

  • Comment number 71.

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

  • Comment number 72.

    #38 NoToBene
    'Any clown can see this is character assassination by the Tory media and his political enemies.'
    Yes, that's apparently what most Labour supporters seem to think.
    Pass the custard pies!

  • Comment number 73.

    Long queue for moderation today...#35 to #66!

    Biffer Brown is known to be a bully - when asking someone why his staff don't tell him things, the response was that they were worried about keeping their jobs and only someone who wasn't directly dependent on Broon to retain his/her job, could dare to speak so.

    A political operation is a bit like an amputation, in that there is a lot of preparation. Many people give their opinions, the patient's opinion is not taken into account, the patient loses a leg, a lot of fluster and diversionary activities take place, and everyone is pleased when the confusion is over and the prosthetic limb installed. Now what was it all about?

  • Comment number 74.

    Fantastic - so as an employer if I am accused of bullying I can explain that I am merely committed and passionate; if I happen to employ an illegal immigrant then I just had an oversight on the paperwork; if I make a mistake on my allowable expenses for tax purposes well that is just an unfortunate administrative error and if I hit another car whilst driving with a phone in my hands I do not need to supply details at the scene. I thought our politicians were meant to give a lead to the country? They have certainly provided a whole heap of excuses for their behaviour which unfortunately just don't wash in our world.

  • Comment number 75.

    #24 f12009

    Who are you? I need to know because I've laughed so much I've hurt myself, and need to sue.

  • Comment number 76.

    Any clown can see this is character assassination by the Tory media and his political enemies.


    Any clown should be able to recognise that the Guardian and the Observer are hardly "tory media"

    God, blasted student first time interns/posters, cant you research anything right before going off on one?

  • Comment number 77.

    Hansard states there has been bullying in the PM/Leader of the House's office. As there were at the Treausury when he was Chancellor. Fact or do they use unparliamentry language?

    The venom and vitriol expounded in defending the indefensible only makes it more likely that the allegations are true. Tehre are a few QC's including Sumption who may like to speak with Brown on a contingency basis!!!

    So the challenge is if these allegations are untrue then take your case to the court.

    Please dont let this end as the Gilligan fiasco did.

  • Comment number 78.

    '1992...'
    '...for three days the election campaign was dominated by claim and counter-claim...'''.

    Rumours that's all, yet the world, well Middle Englanders, are captivated until the next piece of tittle-tattle arrives, like fresh meat at your Secondary School leaving party.

    Whodunnit ?? The Butler (Did It For Him)Inquiry, now Chilcot ??

    or Why Bother ??
    Don't you know the man by now, or is he ''changing'' ??

    He is /They are/ politician(s) and apparently there's an election soon to come...

    Wake Up !!

    [''M'Lord: May I present the evidence...Object 1.
    An aggresively signed autobiography of the defendant

    ...MISSPELLING HIS OWN NAME!!''

    (Murmurs from the courtroom)

    Chilcot: (This might not be a Court of Law but...)

    ''Quiet Please !!''...

    Chilcot:This Court... eh sorry, Inquiry adjourns until 13.25''.]

  • Comment number 79.

    From the Beeb today - Conservative leader David Cameron has called for an inquiry into allegations of bullying in Downing Street.

    He said he was sure that Number 10 and the civil service would want to "get to the bottom" of the "serious matters".

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

    And dig to the bottom of it they will.
    Be very careful of what you wish for.
    Best check this one out fully before you go any further Dave - just in case it back fires.

  • Comment number 80.

    So will we be seeing Sir Gus O'Donnell or Lord Mandelson on the 6pm news or even meeting and greeting with Jeremy Paxman tonight to clarify these scurrilous accusations and to totally deny that bullying ever occured either by Gordon or any of the other staffers at No. 10?

    Probably not, which will go a long way to drive a few more nails into Labours coffin.

  • Comment number 81.

    What a sorry state the Labour party is in when it has to use Mandelson as such a prime spokesman on almost anything of any importance its Mandelson not Brown who says what is said,is he the only capable spokesman they have, or is he the only 1 who can twist words to make the implausible into truth,

  • Comment number 82.

    #42 manureinlondon

    You wrote "The whole thing is obviously a diversion to protect people from yet another Tory policy - giving bank shares to the poor!

    In case you hadn't noticed we, the poor benighted taxpayers, already own them, courtesy of El Gordo and his famous saving of the world.

  • Comment number 83.

    and this as well, lets not forget her....

    Junior minister Jane Kennedy quits over No 10 'bullying' tactics

    Liverpool Wavertree MP said she was unhappy with smears against Labour's own ministers emanating from Downing Street

    Gordon Brown suffered yet another female resignation today when Jane Kennedy, the environment minister, refused to pledge her loyalty to the prime minister and later called on him to stand down.

    The Liverpool Wavertree MP said she was unhappy with smears against Labour's own ministers emanating from 10 Downing Street, which she compared to the "bullying" of Labour activists by Militant on Merseyside in the 1980s."

  • Comment number 84.

    Anyway.. back in the real world; where newlabour are asking us to 'take a second look' at them....

    This morning I took a second look at my pension; the pound; interest rates; the two zombie banks paying huge bonuses; the national debt at record ever levels; the state of education standards in this country; the demoralised NHS; bullying in Downing Street; the EU rebate we received nothing for; the EU refernedum we never got; spin; the Iraq war; the Afghan war... and I decided, against newlabour advice not to judge them on their record, to do exactly that.

    Five more years of more like this? No thanks

    Call an election.

  • Comment number 85.

    All I see are people squirming about this issue. They know the accusations are true. What is more disturbing is the fact that Labour seem to be doing everything possible to stay in power at the expense of what is best for our country and this is just another example. There has been no breach of confidentaility by the bullying helpline. No names have been given. If these Downing Street staff members have left they should come forward !

  • Comment number 86.

    Spare a thought for the mods. They are being overworked and bullied, and that can't be good for them.

    They already stop you posting for 15 seconds, but if you open multiple windows, and use mutilple ids, with a bit of cutting and pasting you can really improve the through put of malicious left wing drivel that they feel necesssary to use to keep this non story going.

  • Comment number 87.

    I think questions need to be asked about uncritical reporting of national bullying help lines claims without looking into them first by the BBC whilst a substantiated case of bullying from Cameron’s communications director http://tinyurl.com/yhgjka9 has been largely ignored.

  • Comment number 88.

    Professor Cary Cooper, who was the Patron of this bullying help line, was in June 2005 appointed head of the Sunningdale Institute, which is managed by the UK National School of Government. (previously known as the Civil Service College and the Centre for Management and Policy Studies, or CMPS) It is a non-ministerial department of the United Kingdom government that runs training, organisational development and consultancy courses for UK civil servants and private individual learners. It is based at Sunningdale Park, near Ascot in Berkshire, but has other centres in Edinburgh and London. It brings international academics and industry figures together to advise on issues facing UK public sector organisations. No wonder he resigned! No point in biting the hand that feeds you.

    Bit of a hoot today seeing Mandy going into one about all this being a political stitch up. Also puncher Prescott went so red in the face I thought he was gone to explode. But the award of the day must go to Geoffrey Robinson, who was the stooge defending Gordon on the Daily Politics Show; but was totally lost for words when the subject of his loan to Mandy, so that he could buy a posh house was bought up. It was priceless. He nearly fell off of his chair.

    Best thing Labour should have done was to say there was nothing new in these allegations and made no comment other than that. But someone pressed the self destruct button and as they say the rest will be news for the rest of the week.

  • Comment number 89.

    All you neeed to know - GB at PMQ on his behaviour

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pr152QOkKGY

  • Comment number 90.

    Comment 47 (jim3227)

    Of course this is related to the election. It is politically motivated and the BBC are fueling the fire, along with other media outlets. I'm not the only one on this blog that thinks this. Take your blinkers off. Nothing is ever like it appears on the surface.

  • Comment number 91.

    It's a shame that the conservative party has resorted to such low tactics. As Peter Mandleson said, does David Cameron care so little about his job that he never gets angry. Nick Clegg on PMQ's looks as if he's going to explode every time Gordon Brown answers one of his questions.

    The war has stared. Smears will be coming left, right and centre. GB is a great prime minister and nobody with an ounce of common sense will vote for the con which is Cameron and his olygark Osbourne.

  • Comment number 92.

    What would Oliver Cromwell have done with Parliament when faced with todays mess and again who is to blame?? but themselves in Westminster

  • Comment number 93.

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

  • Comment number 94.

    30 odd minutes seems to be the waiting time now. In thirty minutes a lot of things can happen, including the possibility of a new thread with a new topic.

  • Comment number 95.

    "He [Mandelson] has yet to say what he means by that or to provide any proof of it."

    "I sense that Labour are trying to recreate something similar in the row about Gordon Brown's alleged bullying which, inevitably, some are already dubbing "bullygate"."

    Oh, so Mandelson has to provide proof to assert his (almost certainly rather paranoid) opinions, but Nick Robinson is permitted to rely on his Spidy senses tingling?

    I miss the old, authoritative BBC.






  • Comment number 96.

    40. At 2:57pm on 22 Feb 2010, david kidd wrote:
    "When you have such a high quality defence containing Mandleson, Prescott, Geoffrey Robinson and 'Mad Hattie' Harman, you know there's a real problem at No. 10."

    "Quality", what quality?
    I would replace that with "profile"

  • Comment number 97.

    "24. At 2:23pm on 22 Feb 2010, f12009 wrote:
    Get a grip. I've always considered myself conservative. But at the next election I'll be voting Labour. And my wife thinks the same. Why? Because, Nick, we don't want to be told who to vote for, thank you. I'm intelligent enough to think for myself and interpret policies/situations."

    Have you lost your mind??? If you have always voted against Labour, what in the last 5 years has convinced you that they are now doing a good job? Good grief!

  • Comment number 98.

    "All, however, distracts from the central issue of Gordon Brown's behaviour"

    Well, I'm not too sure about that, Nick.

    Brown seems to be intent on smearing the whistleblower (again), and you're also doing quite well at helping him do so.

    To me that tells us everything we need to know about Gordon Brown's behaviour and about the BBC's "impartiality".

  • Comment number 99.

    The debt clock has ticked a little bit further round the dial today. Another masterly display of inactivity by this government. They are happily making it progressively worse for the next government whoever that may be.

    Meanwhile, this thread continues unabated.

  • Comment number 100.

    I waited 20 seconds

 

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