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Daily View: Gordon Brown bullying claims

Clare Spencer | 11:00 UK time, Monday, 22 February 2010

Gordon BrownCommentators are considering the claims in a book by political journalist Andrew Rawnsley that Gordon Brown has bullied his staff. The BBC's newspaper review looks at what press columnists have to say; the reaction of politics bloggers is below.

Mike Smithson at Political Betting thinks the discussion could be a gift for David Cameron:

"[M]y betting position on Brown not leading his party at the election might just be a winner after all. Ladbrokes have 8/1 on Brown going before the general election."

The Spectator's James Forsyth tells Radio 4's Westminster Hour that he thinks the allegation is potentially devastating for the prime minister:
"I think if it was a matter of him shouting at Peter Mandelson or some other Cabinet minister, it wouldn't be so serious. But it's the idea that the people who bear the brunt of his temper are relatively junior staff is very hurtful to his image."

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Phil Hendren who blogs as Dizzy Thinks picks out three occasions when bullying in the PM's office has been brought up in Parliament over the last four years:

"So... that's 'three or four' calls, in the last 'three or four' years, which is rather handily less than 'five' which happens to be the number that Brown's own departments have confirmed have made complaints - might it be the same people that moved with him?"

Labour activist Chris Paul argues that the bullying claims may be unrepresentative:

"[B]eing Chancellor and Prime Minister are high pressure roles and that any driven believer should be hard on himself and on others where there are failures along the way. A hard task master. With a reputation for throwing the occasional paddy. But we're not talking knocking Gerry Adams to the floor here."

Iain Dale wonders about confidentiality and the National Bullying Helpline:

"If I were one of the three or four Downing Street employees who had phoned the helpline in confidence, I'd be pretty cheesed off to find that my call had been made public by the Helpline's chief executive"

In a later post Mr Dale then portrays Labour as trying to undermine the National Bullying Helpline:
"It is a matter for profound sadness that Gordon Brown has debased the office of Prime Minister in this way. He's in denial, but that just makes it worse. He may try to deflect the news agenda onto Mrs Pratt and her bullying helpline (as recommended by Lord Mandelson), as well as encouraging his aids to smear her as a Tory stooge but he cannot escape blame in this sorry saga."

Among blogging MPs, Liberal Democrat Lynne Featherstone asks a few questions:

"Firstly - if Rawnsley has written something untrue - why doesn't Brown sue?
"Probably too simplistic.
"Secondly and perhaps more interestingly is what constitutes bullying? If a 'boss' shouts at an employee because they've done something wrong - something serious that puts the firm or organisation in jeopardy - is that bullying or is that just the sign of someone who is passionate about their work, firm or reputation?"

In his Twitter account, Labour MP John Prescott questions the impartiality of the National Bullying Helpline, bringing up the possibility of links to members of the Conservative Party.

Conservative MP John Redwood predicts that many questions will be asked about Gordon Brown's character but, says that he would prefer to focus on the PM's decision-making:

"In the case of a Prime Minister the thing that matters most to most of us is what judgements he comes to, what decisions he takes that shape our country's destiny. The public can live with a PM who turns most normal Parliamentary questions into an invitation to try to put down political opponents, if all the main calls he is making are correct."

Links in full

see alsoMike Smithson | Political Betting | Could there be a better gift to Dave?
BBC NewsBBC Westminster Hour
Phli Hendren | Dizzy Thinks | Brown admits his office has a bullying problem
BloggerChris Paul | Labour of Love | Hard to distinguish the bullies
BloggerIain Dale | A breach of confidentiality
BloggerIain Dale | Brown (and some journos) In denial
Lynne FeatherstoneLynne Featherstone | Brown's temper, temper Prescott | Twitter
John Redwood's DiaryJohn Redwood | Questions of character and judgement

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