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Brown's behaviour

Nick Robinson | 12:30 UK time, Sunday, 21 February 2010

Too busy to get stuck into the detailed claims and counter claims of how the prime minister treats those he works with?

Here's my short summary:

Gordon Brown doesn't hit his staff - something not actually alleged in Andrew Rawnsley's book The End of the Party but which the PM was asked about and denied in an interview with Channel 4 last night.

The prime minister does, however, throw things when he gets angry. He said so in the same interview.brown226.jpg

So, is he a bully? Bullying, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

This morning his closest political ally Peter Mandelson declared: "I don't think he so much bullies people but is demanding... there is a degree of impatience about the man."

Finally, did the cabinet secretary investigate the prime minister's behaviour and warn him about it?

Last night a Cabinet Office spokesman denied an allegation that was never actually made when they stated: "It is categorically not the case that the cabinet secretary asked for an investigation of the prime minister's treatment of No 10 staff."

Indeed, Sir Gus O'Donnell did not ask for or initiate a formal investigation into Gordon Brown's behaviour.

Well, he wouldn't would he? No denial has been made, however, that Sir Gus - who worked with Gordon Brown at the Treasury - talked to No 10 staff himself and advised the PM to treat them better.

Was this an "investigation" and "a warning" or is that journalistic hyperbole to describe friendly advice to a politician from his leading official?

We don't and may never know.

So what is not in dispute here is the description of how the PM behaves, although Downing Street does dispute individual stories. The question is whether it matters.

The prime minister's friends and allies may dispute the details of particular incidents but, in general, they have chosen to publicly defend his behaviour as that of a demanding leader determined to do what's right.

Privately, many express their unhappiness with it but insist that the PM's weaknesses are more than outweighed by his qualities.

His critics say that Brown's behaviour is unacceptable and disqualifies him from being the nation's leader.

As ever, it is you who gets to decide.


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  • Comment number 1.

    I can well understand why you are being a tad circumspect Nick. But have you taken the trouble to read Rawnsley's account?

    Nowhere does he claim the head of the civil service launched a "formal" investigation as you seem to intimate.

    Brown's behaviour and temper tantrums come as no surprise but it is these allegations of a reprimand by the head of the civil service which is the most damning and damaging.

    No charges of betrayal or someone with an axe to grind, can be levelled at Rawnsley, who claims "absolutely impeccable sources".

    He's one of the most respected political journalists on the right side of New Labour around.

    Doesn't that alone makes his account all the more believable and devastating?

  • Comment number 2.

    If i had to deal with the stress that Gordon Brown has had since he's been PM, i would be inclined to 'lose it' from time to time! What's the big fuss?!

  • Comment number 3.

    We all know what Brown is like. Loads of people will personal experience are telling us (repeatedly) about this. Brown denies it - well what do we expect, that he will tell us that he is a bully ?

    Thing with bullies is that often they are not aware of their behaviour. OK, those who form a gang in the playground know what is happening, but often in work situations and where the bullying is a "character flaw" those doing it just think they are "doing a good job" for their group/company/staff/country. Because of their personality they are not aware of what they are doing.

    For this to happen is a PM is just worrying. Quite why we voted this guy to be PM I have no idea because we should have looked more carefully before selecting him to such a position.

  • Comment number 4.

    "His critics say that Brown's behaviour is unacceptable and disqualifies him from being the nation's leader."


    Incidentally, I think the whole issue of Brown's temper was best summed up at PMQs last year when Brown was asked by Stephen Crabb about bullying in the workplace. His barely concealed anger and contempt at being asked such an impertinent question showed us all we need to know about the "real" Gordon Brown.

  • Comment number 5.

    With Brown's attitude to the public rights and the promised referendum on the EU constitution/treaty I would say that here we have very definate dictator material and the fact that he thrown things when annoyed comes as no suprise to me.

    As far as being the best man for the job, well if the job is ruining England and the UK then he is very definately the best man for the job.

  • Comment number 6.

    We all have faults, however how we act at work does reflect on the work produced. A good boss will get the best out of staff and bad boss will bully staff. GB call the GE now to save your staff and country.

  • Comment number 7.

    It is often difficult to actually distinguish what is 'bullying' behaviour by a boss from that which is demanding... in this odd world, it is viewed from the receipient's standpoint - if the minion feels that they have been bullied, then there are considered to be grounds for complaint.

    The matter is further made murky by the fact that many people do not remember their manners when asking those who work for them to do something. 'Please' and 'Thank you' and 'When you have a moment, could you...?' go a long way to making the delivery of instructions a more pleasant interaction.

    I filled out a job application a couple of days ago in which I was asked "Is it important to you that those who work for you like you?" While this was one of those 'rank your answer from strongly agree to strongly disagree' things, I thought about WHY I do think it is important. It's not a touchy-feelie let's all be mates thing, I have found that people work better for those they like. They may go through the motions, tick the boxes, for those they dislike, but they won't work with anything near the enthusiasm than they will for a good manager who they feel cares about them as PEOPLE not just minions.

    Perhaps that's something Brown could do with remembering next time he has a bit of a rant!

  • Comment number 8.

    If a civil servant acted the way described by Andrew Rawnsley then discipinary action and possible dismissal would follow.

    It is known, and has been for some time, that GB has an awful temper. I am amazed that No 10 was denying yesterday allegations that have not been made. however to deny an allegation that has not been made, and that are similar to ones that have been made, means that the denial is not a lie. This is done with the hope of creating a smokescreen.

    It is interesting that the actual incidents highlighted have not been denied.

  • Comment number 9.

    "This morning his closest political ally Peter Mandelsen" - well that's Brown in the deep do-dah then.
    "Privately, many express their unhappiness with it but insist that the PM's weaknesses are more than outweighed by his qualities." - what qualities? The man is a ditherer, a political coward, without any notion of 'honour' (although that does seem to be a necessity for politicians these days), corrupt and totally devoid of any leadership qualities other than bullying. The man is a loser and should go now.
    Call an election

  • Comment number 10.

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain.

  • Comment number 11.

    # 3 DeimosL wrote:

    For this to happen is a PM is just worrying. Quite why we voted this guy to be PM I have no idea because we should have looked more carefully before selecting him to such a position.


    The point is he was not elected to be PM by the people or even the tired old Labour party. He was handed leadership of tired old Labour as nobody had enough support to stand against him, so he was tired lobour leader by default. The only people who hve voted for GB are in his constituency.

  • Comment number 12.

    Re comment 3: 'Quite why we voted this guy to be PM I have no idea because we should have looked more carefully before selecting him to such a position.' DeimosL

    Excuse me, who's we?! As far as I'm aware no-one voted Brown to be PM, not in the democratic sense, anyway. If his appointment had been open to a democratic vote, as it should have been, we wouldn't have been saddled with one of the worst PMs in our history!

  • Comment number 13.

    Comments that Mr Brown is a demanding and impatient man say it all really. Anyone who has worked for a "demanding and impatient boss" knows exactly what those comments mean. Do what I tell you, and do it yesterday or Else. Oh and he occasionally throw things too.
    Not the sort of person I would like to work for or for that matter trust with getting the country out of its present mess

  • Comment number 14.

    And I thought he was just a bit of a plonker...

    Brilliant stuff - and impeccable timing for the looming election, I fear. This is much better than the "When did you stop beating your wife?" scenario too. Anyway since Number 10 claims this is all about "malicious allegations", I'm sure there's a big juicy libel case being prepared. Gordie can donate his winnings to a charity and show the voters what a nice chap he really is...

    Hang on a minute... Why has nobody (say, Brown, Mandelson, Balls or Old Tom Cobley and all) threatened libel action for defamation of character or some such reason?

  • Comment number 15.

    I don't know if this goes against some kind of politically correct agenda that the BBC espouses, but as someone who shares a similar health problem, what people may, I think, be overlooking is the man has a health problem (his one eye) and under stress, this can make life extremely difficult for him to cope with.

    So he lashes out. Understandable, really. But is this something we would want in our Prime Minister? A man who oversees London - a man at the centre of some of the world's biggest finance, banking, insurance and accountancy institutions - a man who repeatedly claimed to have abolished boom and bust - who any reasoned person could be forgiven for thinking, with those words, had set it all off ... the false belief that they could continue to push lending, to anyone, at any price, without consequence.

  • Comment number 16.

    "So what is not in dispute here is the description of how the PM behaves"

    Quite so, but whether that qualifies him for the appellation "bully" or not, a man with such a short fuse has virtually unchallenged power in our "elective dictatorship". That's why he's not the man for the job. It also demonstrates why the tories are also wrong in claiming that he's responsible for "broken Britain".

    It is the polity of the UK that is broken, and in particular the contitutional settlement which allows bullies (or people who behave very like them) to sit atop the "greasy pole".

  • Comment number 17.

    I have just watched a BBCNEWS24 broadcast on this topic. The banner below the interview with Rawnsley repeatedly stated "Book claims PM physically abused staff". At the same time, Rawnsley stated (only once and easily missed) that his book contains "no such claims". Who do we believe? Who is telling lies? Oops, BBC, more care needed! Doesn't Nick Robinson watch BBC News? He confirms Rawnsley's statement in his Blog - why isn't he rapping BBC editorial knuckles as we speak?

  • Comment number 18.

    So, Gordon is bullying the nation into submission and doesn't take criticism.

    I don't want that sort of leader as I have a brain of my own which I like to use to reason out my own behaviour and take responsibility for my own actions. I want Gordon off my back, and everyone else's so we can get on with our lives in a reasonable manner.

    Gordon has broken the economy and won't apologise for his behaviour. That alone makes him unfit to be considered a leader. Having made life unfair for everybody, he now has the audacity to ask for another 5 years to make it fair again. What rubbish. Go now Gordon.

  • Comment number 19.

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

  • Comment number 20.

    The interesting thing is that Brown and No. 10 have been busy denying things which are not claimed by Rawnsley in his account - a classic smokescreen.

    Brown denied on Channel 4 News last night that he had ever hit anyone - but Rawnsley does not allege that Brown hit anybody at all - he alleges a volcanic temper, throwing things at staff and rough handling (like the secretary pulled roughly from her chair, because Brown did not think she was typing fast enough. Gus O'Donnel has denied there was ever a "formal inquiry" into Brown's behaviour - but that is not what Rawnsley alleged - he alleges that the Cabinet Secretary held a discrete, informal inquiry into Brown's behaviour and then told Brown to behave better towards his staff.

    And so it goes on - Brown is just a classic bully!

  • Comment number 21.

    Whether or not we know for sure that Gordon Brown has a bad temper we do know that he has smeared his political opponents in a way not know before NuLabour. Following the Smeargate revelations I decided I would never vote for him or support him again. I will not put my name to this type of action.

    Please God, let these be his last few months with any influence over this country. He has sold us down the river economically, socially and politically, if he was running a company, as leader, he would be responsible for what happened on his watch, yet somehow he is placing all the blame on everything but himself.

    Enough should be enough.

  • Comment number 22.

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

  • Comment number 23.

    Does it matter? Well it's another case of "do as I say not as I do". Anyone in the public service will surely have been swept up in the culture of diversity, bullying awareness and anti-harrassment courses. All aimed at ensuring acceptable 'new labour defined' behaviour in the workplace. Bad behaviour is not OK for us but for Mr Brown it's only "that of a demanding leader determined to do what's right". Similarly if you are involved in climate change you can fly round the world to your heart's content. We must behave. They do what they want.

  • Comment number 24.

    15. At 1:47pm on 21 Feb 2010, Crinklebottom wrote:
    I don't know if this goes against some kind of politically correct agenda that the BBC espouses, but as someone who shares a similar health problem, what people may, I think, be overlooking is the man has a health problem (his one eye) and under stress, this can make life extremely difficult for him to cope with.


    I know of a similar important figure who had only one eye, and also one arm, but as far as I am aware, he calmly strode about his Quarter Deck, in far more stressful circumstances than ever the Prime Minister has experienced, in order to inspire his followers, and given Mr Brown has written a book on Courage, I would assume he knew of him. The difference was not only in temperament, but in achievements, the one eyed one armed man save his country from destruction, Brown led us to it.

  • Comment number 25.

    "No charges of betrayal or someone with an axe to grind, can be levelled at Rawnsley, who claims "absolutely impeccable sources".

    He's one of the most respected political journalists on the right side of New Labour around.

    Doesn't that alone makes his account all the more believable and devastating?"

    Except Andrew Rawnsley has been proved to have flat out lied about Gordon Brown in the past-

    He's just another hack.

  • Comment number 26.

    When does Mervyn King retire?

    I bet he and Gordon have had some real battles, and of course Gordon had Blair's backing so King would have to back down or go public and wait for the knife in the back.

    I'll definitely buy his book when he steps down, if it is no holds barred.

  • Comment number 27.

    Edwinthecat @#2

    You wrote, "If i had to deal with the stress that Gordon Brown has had since he's been PM, i would be inclined to 'lose it' from time to time! What's the big fuss?!"

    I do believe the British, between 1939 and 1945, did something about someone who had the same sort of temper tantrums, was inclined to 'lose it' from time to time and throw things at other people. I am sure that guy had lots of stress too!

    I am certain there are drugs and treatments for people who display violent behaviours, require anger management and need stress reduction ..... making excuses is probably not a good idea for for such people. I suspect that people with 'great big clunking fists" and a tendency to bully, berate or, even threaten people to the point where the bully needs to be cautioned and shown the yellow card have tendencies that would see such people detained at Her Majesty's pleasure for the protection of society as a whole.

  • Comment number 28.

    Re Comment 2 by Edwinthecat, who wrote:

    "If i had to deal with the stress that Gordon Brown has had since he's been PM, i would be inclined to 'lose it' from time to time! What's the big fuss?!"

    The big fuss is that this is not an acceptable way to treat your employees, - he seems to be behaving like Gordon Ramsay. If my line manager talked to me in that fashion, I'd be on the phone to Personnel and my Union rep before the echoes had died down. And if he laid a finger on me I'd be taking full advantage of the rules allowing Reasonable Force' in Self-Defence. I expect to be treated in a civilised way in the workplace.

  • Comment number 29.

    Excuse me, who's we?! As far as I'm aware no-one voted Brown to be PM, not in the democratic sense, anyway. If his appointment had been open to a democratic vote, as it should have been, we wouldn't have been saddled with one of the worst PMs in our history!

    Please, please learn how our political system works. We don't and never have voted for a Prime Minister.

  • Comment number 30.

    Losing your temper with your subordinate colleagues in work situations is a sign that either you've lost your own argument because your logic/reason is flawed, or that you have no confidence in your own ability to lead/work, or both.

    A capable leader would listen to what their colleague has to say, consider it, and if they didn't agree then they'd calmly say:
    "I've listened and thought about what you say, but I don't agree with you, here's why I don't agree....., and seeing as you work for me rather than the other way around, either you do what I'm asking you to do or you find another job"

    A capable leader would not throw the newspapers on the floor (or throw a printer or phone at their colleague) and walk off in a huff shouting and swearing at you.

    In the private sector, most managers (at least in the corporate sector) simply wouldn't lose their temper in the same way that Brown's reported to have done, because if they did then they'd be subject to a tribunal pretty quickly and probably fired, or at least given a very strong final written warning.

    I for one don't believe Brown's account of things for a moment, because I've seen his attitude for myself on Sky and the BBC.

    Whenever he's confronted with a political/economic truth that he didn't want to address because he knew he was wrong about it, he gives the interviewer a silent stare which makes the child catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang look like an angel, and then storms off in a big huff before the interview's finished, almost ripping apart all the mic equipment in the process.

    The problem isn't so much that he loses his temper, the problem is that he refuses to listen to the person who he's losing his temper with; he simply refuses to listen to logic or reason.

    For 2 years people told him that his plans to "abolish" the lowest tax band was in fact a doubling of tax for the lowest paid. But by admitting the truth he would have proven/admitted his complete lack of understanding of basic maths so he just denied what was right in front of his face. It was only when his own job was threatened that he addressed it (and even then he didn't admit to the basic mathematical error that he'd made).

    It's not so much him losing his temper which is the biggest problem, it's his complete refusal to ever listen to logic, reason, facts, or reality that's the problem.

  • Comment number 31.

    It may well be correct that Brown's qualities outweigh his faults - that one can be argued very passionately by all.

    What REALLY worries me is that this man has his finger on the UK's nuclear button. Now that thought is too horrific for words, because such a flawed individual, regardless of other positive qualities, should never be in such a situation or postion.

    Additionally, for all those saying David Miliband should be a Leader, can you really see him worthy of the responsibility for the UK nuclear deterrent?

  • Comment number 32.

    I have worked for bosses who shout and yell and thump the desk and , yes, throw things.

    Result ? I often did the same back. Some didnt like that others calmed down and never did the same to me again.

    I have also worked for bosses who would quietly say . "This isnt quite what I wanted , could you have another look at it please. My particular concern is.....

    Result The problem got another going over and everybody was happy and nobody was abused.

    Guess which boss got the most from his staff.

  • Comment number 33.

    I think that anyone who throws things during the course of their work - and from Nicks post this does not seem to be in dispute - has got some real issues that need to be addressed. Why does he feel the need to do this ? Does he do this sort of thing at home with his family ?

    If anyone conducted themselves in this manner where I work they would certainly be subject to disiplinary action, and possibly may even be seen as gross misconduct warranting dismissal.

    Everyones work is affected to some degree by how they approach their job, and in Gordon Browns case, the results of this temperamentally challenged personality are there for all to see.

  • Comment number 34.

    If you want to believe it's true, then no doubt you'll believe it's true.
    To me it just looks like the usual media made-up facts, half-truths, guesswork and spin.

    So our Prime-minister is demanding? Good.

  • Comment number 35.

    I've just looked up the word 'bully' in the dictionary And, as I suspected, it's all to do with using 'superior strength or influence' to force another to do what one wants.

    Well, isn't that what most management boils down to? Whether it's the teacher in the classroom, the policeman on the beat or the manager in the office it all ends up the same way.

    Probably just depends which end you are on.

  • Comment number 36.

    He seems like the boss from hell.

    A petulant little man, unable to handle his temper and who uses his position as PM to act in a manner more in keeping with a thug.

    I look back to when I thought we were replacing Blair with a genuine statesman, and really, how much more wrong could I have been?

  • Comment number 37.

    I see only Mandleson has jumped to Brown's defence. I suppose all the other ministers are far too busy.
    Words such as insincere, unelected, ego and liar spring to mind for some reason.

  • Comment number 38.

    This is a classic New Labour tactic whereby an allegation is made, and they deny something similar. The general public can't believe that senior government figures would lie, and hence the allegation must be untrue. It is a pity that someone does not do a Paxman on one of these people, and get a direct confirmation or denial of specific allegations. I don't know if this tactic is a recent phenomenon, although it does seem consistent with a government full of lawyers who have been trained in word games. Is it so surprising that politicians are currently held in such low esteem by the general public?

  • Comment number 39.

    15. At 1:47pm on 21 Feb 2010, Crinklebottom wrote:

    So he lashes out. Understandable, really. But is this something we would want in our Prime Minister? A man who oversees London...

    The rest of the country certainly doesn't seem to take up much of his time.

  • Comment number 40.

    Like we all believe what Brown and Mandelsohn say.
    Look at the last years that these two people have had in power, and the whole period is littered with false promises; a kind of lie, but worse as it builds up hope, then dashes it down, lies, lies and more lies, as well as the old saying; and statistics, (which are trotted out so often by all political parties as to be totally meaningless, therefore another kind of lie).
    So, what is behind all this sudden hands in the air, denying abuse and violence? I am not saying one thing or the other, but one has to think that the (lady) doth protest too much.
    Call me a cynic, but I have totally lost confidence in Parliament, politicians and even more so, senior civil servants who really and truly should be independant of party politics of whichever hue.
    Sad really!

  • Comment number 41.

    What does one expect when an election is in the offing? Someone will try to discredit a person for political reasons. We do not know what Gordon has done it's all hearsay. However he seems to be able to get on with and be respected by other world leaders, they value his opinions. We constantly hear the comment that we need a strong leader, someone who knows what wants doing and is determined to get it done. Surely this is a picture of Gordon. He doesn't change his stance to get others on his side or win votes as the leader of the Conservatives seems to be doing. I know who I would rather trust out future with of the two of them Unfortunately the best man (Vince Cable) does not seem to be available,

  • Comment number 42.


    Curious about him being short-tempered and impatient - the photo in your blog, like so many of late on the BBC site, is of Brown yawning.

    With any luck he'll go beddibies for a long while.

  • Comment number 43.

    Typical Labour spin, deny something that wasn't alleged then claim the author is wrong. Let them take Rawnsley to court if they dare.

    The reality is that the newspapers are full of reports of people taking their bosses to court for constructive dismissal when they display the same alleged dreadful behaviour.

    I can't help noticing the similarity to Zimbabwe, Zanu, Mr Mugabe and Labour; the trashing of both economies and refusal to accept that it is anything to do with the present incumbent. No doubt following the election there will be stories about postal votes and stuffing the boxes. Now what was the policy, balance the books over the economic cycle? Strangely that particular theory seems to be shut away in a locked cupboard, we will be lucky if the expenditure balanced over the next 90 years, the ZanuLabour legacy will live on.

    Anyone for a new political party, how about the Movement for Democratic Change?

    The joke of calling Labour ZanuLabour is now becoming far closer to the truth of our present predicament than we ever thought.

  • Comment number 44.

    There we go then.

    Thats us plebs told then.

    Pravda has spoken.

    The editor gets dragged in on a day off to confirm a denial of one of the worst kept open sectrets in British politics.

    Dont we all feel so much better and more reassured?

  • Comment number 45.

    This is all rather pathetic.

    Do I want a PM who has a bit of a temper and cares about the job or do I want someone who says, "Oh dear, I'm sure it will be lovely next time."

    As for bullying, what an overused word that it is. Does it mean being on some's back if they are not doing what I want? Does it mean being so demanding that most people are wary of him? Does it mean that he will let off steam at anyone when things do not go the way he wants. I suspect that many of our 'great' leaders have been guilty of that. I suspect that at the right moment most of these 'great' leaders have been told that they were being rather 'hard' or 'demanding' or even 'unkind' towards others and even that a target had 'taken it to heart'. If you chose to work in the world of politics that is what you have to expect.

    Bullying is the calculated destruction of self esteem. Yes, I have been a target of bullying and it was a long way beyond being upset because someone had gone over the top when telling me off, or yelling at me. The overuse of the word 'bully' and a sanctimonious knee jerk response to that word produces a spineless generation. All claims of bullying need to be investigated though.

  • Comment number 46.

    I am amongst Gordon Brown's most long term and harshest critics. He is in no way a bully. He is a well-intentioned, emotional man who is totally out of his depth. Unlike his predecessor he has sufficient native morality not to seek to dissimulate his way out of the difficulties consequent to what are in my view rather silly political values.

    To my mind the issue is not Brown but the entire model of the Big State which Labour has espoused since 1945 with which our nation has been blessed these last sixty and more years. No organisation of the size and complexity of the modern British state can ever work effectively. It is now out of control; swallowing up the nation's resources faster than a cosmic black hole thus preventing any hope of an economic recovery. Is it any wonder that Brown is in despair? He is becoming the fall-guy for the failure of the social-democratic state in the UK. Looking at his predicament in that light one can even start to feel sorry for the man.

    Over the same period the British have evolved this rather politically correct idea that one should ever show emotions in public. It is an evolution of the stiff upper lip so beloved of the Victorian bourgeois but rarely followed in practice. This absurd and now legally enforceable perception leads us into all sorts of silly backwaters of little value. For example, on Friday I discovered Colleague A had instructed Colleague B to do something which could not be completed due to Colleague A not having done his task properly in the first place. I then had to instruct Colleague B as to how to complete said task successfully. Then Colleague A complained that the process was incorrect so it needed to be reversed and repeated. I then suggested to Colleague A that he should not be so foolish in his fornications in a succint four lettered Anglo-Saxon manner. Was I being a foul-mouthed bully, or should I have initiated a time consuming disciplinary process? No: I was telling all concerned that no major offence had been committed so in future please do the job properly in the first place.

    I would suggest to Gordon Brown that he remodels his working environment. The `war-room' arrangement at No 10 is useless to a man of his nature. He needs to have his own office where he can scream at the walls if need be. I often find myself shouting at the walls of my office: it helps! He also needs to control the number of people who have access to him so that he can work in a calmer environment. This will facilitate his focus allowing better concentration. He is quite effective in policy when he concentrates. This need not stop him from going about walking the job as it were but he needs to get in control and be seen to be in control.

    Our country faces a sequence of very difficult decisions this year. This is an election year where the people of this country will have to make some very serious and historical choices. The focus has to be on policy and not personalities. It is important that the electorate does come out to vote in large numbers so the options have to be put to them clearly and with emphasis. To reduce our politics at an important time like this to innuendos about personalities is just absurd. It dishonours us all and should stop.

  • Comment number 47.


    We're fully aware of how the system works.

    What you seem to be in denial about is the effect that the personality of the leader has on the electorate and who they choose to vote for. The leader of a party chooses his own cabinet or shadow cabinet and has a significant bearing on the type of agenda that the government is to pursue.

    So, to to say that we dont elect PM's, we elect MP's is true but only half the story.

    Had the public been given a chance to vote Labour in in 2005 with Brown instead of Blair at the helm, chances are it would have been a significantly different result. Likewise, Blair campaigned on yet another lie in 05 - that, if returned to office, he would serve a full term.

    The mandate is given to the winning party and the leader of the winning party by virtue of the amount of party MP's returned to Westminster.

    You might know the technical side, but there is a human side of it you need to learn as well.

  • Comment number 48.


    And you have a whiff of rebutter about you....

  • Comment number 49.

    10. Eatonrifle wrote:
    "..just the "Same Old Tories"... I guess the latter.
    ...politics of fear, caught out fibbing re official figures on crime.....Yep.."

    Showing they're ready for office then? ;)

    Brown behaviour:
    I don't think we need Rawnsley's book to tell us what's fairly evident from numerous PMQs and TV appearences. A mediocre history lecturer and pseudo intellectual promoted beyond his qualifications struggling to hold his party together, never mind the country. His PR wife seems to be doing a better job of lining herself up for a crack at the other PR PM wannabee, should he get in.

  • Comment number 50.


    You'll get the government you deserve, Eaton. Glad it wont be mine, whichever way the coin falls.

  • Comment number 51.

    Having watched Gordon Brown seeth, scowl and brood when Tony Blair was in the limelight and listened to one of Frank Field's accounts of how Brown treated him, none of this comes as any surprise. I have always thought this man's immature, egotistical character made him totally unsuitable to be the prime minister of Britain. The question is: How did he manage to attain such a position? What is wrong with our system of government? I'd like to see radical change and have made some suggestions at:

  • Comment number 52.

    Is Gordon Brown an unruly colleague? I expect he is and however unsourced Rawnsley`s comments are,and he has a book to sell,I think he has accurately gauged the Whitehall mood.

    Brown is an obsessive which has two sources,one is a Scottish Presbytarian background with its sense of a calling,the second his laser like focus because of disability.There is a relentlessness about obsessive behaviour which causes difficulty for colleagues and comes across as a lack of empathy.These traits have been observed in Mr.Brown.

    On the plus side there is focus,concentration and consistency,which,if the policy is right, can win against the odds.There is near consensus about his correct management of the banking crisis,his insistence on maintaining keynesian instruments of demand management while the crisis persists shows similar personality traits.

    Mr.Cameron`s strengths mirror some of Mr.Brown`s weaknesses.He has good people skills,is empathic and flexible rather than obsessive.However this makes him inconsistent and people are anxious about how this impacts on policy:

    In 2007 he was going to maintain Labour`s spending plans for the first two years of a Tory government,despite an insurmountable deficit he only discovered after the crash.Similar confusion reigns over married couples tax allowances,elderly care and IHT,culminating in confusion about when and how much to cut public spending, with Osborne,Clark and Cameron speaking with different voices in the same week.

    There is now a give away the banks policy while pretending to be serious about cutting the deficit,whose logic escapes all but the very best minds.

    We are in the early stages of a major crisis,think wartime.In the next few months sovereign debt, which has ballooned as the result of a crisis in the private sector of the economy, will replace bank debt as the focus of policy.I am hoping the British government will keep its nerve and maintain spending until output ande revenues improve.The conservatives appear disunited on this issue and this is a reflection of the personal inconsistencies of its leader.

  • Comment number 53.

    #3 Deimost

    "Quite why we voted this guy to be PM I have no idea because we should have looked more carefully before selecting him to such a position."

    Keep up! We didn't vote for or select him. In any sense.Read numerous previous posts on this site!

  • Comment number 54.

    So the BBC wheels out Nick Robinson to clarify matters - and it sounds like a defence of Gordon Brown.

    The Labour party has spent much of its tenure flat out denying anything and everything that could be seen as being derogatory.

    Now wait for Labour's liars - sorry, spin doctors - to allege the same of David Cameron.

  • Comment number 55.

    #10. Eatonrifle wrote:
    "As Rawnsley says himself, despite the hot temper and no doubt other personality flaws, he showed considerable leadership qualities during the financial crisis."

    Yes? He avoided any part of the blame for the crisis - forgetting that he was too busy turning a blind eye to the excesses of the banks while the tax for his phenomenal spending rolled in. He managed to manipulate the situation to raise public ire against the banks. Sure, some banks were naughty but Brown had regulators - why didn't he use them?

    Politicians unwilling to own the problems they've (at least part-) created are dishonourable. Instead, he went round the world blaming anything at hand and making fatuous noises about how everyone else should regulate their financial system. He somehow overlooked the problems of a global financial system pitted against national boundaries and economies.

    He certainly hasn't led his party smoothly through the financial crisis nor, for that matter, through any policy implementation. Party members have been kicking up, resigning, rebelling etc. I mean, look at it - the UK is close to a credit downgrading, the £ is worth about 2/3 of its value 2 years ago and this "frigile" economic revival is still dependent on printing money like there's no tomorrow, bail-out schemes, keeping the pound down to help our exports (evidently not realising that we hardly export anything and that all of us are paying hugely for things we have to buy as imports.

    What's frightening is that it'll take a Thatcher-like austerity to put everything right but without the public stuff that Thatcher had to sell.

  • Comment number 56.

    @41 Vic Flute
    It's not "all hearsay" Vic. Lance Price has witnessed this behaviour at first hand. It's all in his book.

  • Comment number 57.

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

  • Comment number 58.

    48 Perry

    "And you have a whiff of rebutter about you...."

    As usual.

    Someone puts forward a hint of Labour support and the tired old insinuation that it's orchestrated is made.

    Current polls for every 4 Tories there's 3 Labour...Yes?

    On here for every 5 Tories (at least) there's 1 Labour.

    Very disproportionate but obviously Labour orchestrated reverse Psychology no doubt.

    Scratch the surface....


  • Comment number 59.


    So you noticed as well - Nick was supposed to be back on MONDAY - not Sunday.

    Desperate times/ desperate measures maybe?

  • Comment number 60.

    Well, well.

    The Tory lead slumps again, so ex-Tory rag journo Rawnsley just happens to be in a position to disclose all this.

    This is the Tory dirty tricks brigade again, end of.

    Anyway, I'd sooner have a PM with a bit of temper than one who can't even park a car now!!

  • Comment number 61.

    #3, "Quite why we voted this guy to be PM I have no idea because we should have looked more carefully before selecting him to such a position."

    I know why we voted him to be PM.... oh, wait, hang on. We didn't vote him to be PM. The nation voted for Blair who promised to serve a full third term. Ho hum... another broken promise from Improved New Labour.

  • Comment number 62.

    I know of a similar important figure who had only one eye, and also one arm ...


    Nelson's stress was imposed on him under the comparatively fleeting circumstances of battle, for which it might be argued that adrenaline would have carried him through it. Gordon Brown's stress is a minute to minute; hour by hour; day after day, one. That kind of pressure, when the adrenaline subsides, is the kind that gnaws away at weakness, and preys upon it. Forgive me if I am wrong about this, but there is also a strong rumour that his functioning eye isn't actually that good, either.

  • Comment number 63.

    Typical politicians avoidance of the actual question -- try and fool the great unwashed with answers which at first reading do sound as if we are getting a categorical denial but on closer inspection are the usual slippery waffle we have come to expect. Gordon has the remedy if he is not guilty as charged -SUE IF HE DARES ! or is it the case that the allegations are true ? If so I hate to think how many decisions are made on the basis of childish frustration or anger rather than on a reasoned basis - perhaps the head in the sand attitude to the 10p tax debacle was such a decision ?

  • Comment number 64.

    I think there comes a point (in every debate about a man's personality) where what we are really talking about is his character. I think personality traits are no more than symptoms of character: and now more than ever, we need someone of good character in Number Ten.

    In that context, we must ask ourselves, "Is Mr Brown a man who seems to be straight and frank in his dealings with colleagues, opponents and the media?" I think the answer would have to be "there are grave doubts sbout that". Consider:
    1. There are so many on-the-record statements about Gordon briefing against Tony Blair, it seems odd to many that he still denies this.
    2. The evidence from colleagues and actions that he seriously considered an election in 2006 is even more overwhelming. But still he denies that the thought ever entered his head....while his hand was on his heart.
    3. Brown's succession to the leadership involved both briefing against potential opponents and very obviously orchestrated pressure on the then Prime Minister. No, he insists - that never happened.
    4. The change in the current PM's dental gleam is obvious when comparing pre and post photos. He denies having had any dental work whatsoever.
    5. When accused of sight problems, he categorically denied there were any new tears on his retina. He then admitted that two new 'unimportant' ones had been reported the previous March. So he knew about the tears, but kept quiet about them...until the evidence surfaced.
    6. Throughout the build-up to the Iraq War, Mr Brown never made a single statement supporting the Government of which he was Chancellor. He signed the cheques for the War, but has only made any statement about his role in it since public and Libdem pressure forced him to face the Chilcot Inquiry. His defence is that he wasn't in the loop (which all the Chilcot witnesses except Clare Short deny) and that he supported non-compliance (not WMD) as the reason for the invasion being legal (which leaves him beyond most - although not all - of the controversy).
    7. During two months of Commons debate on the fiscal measures to combat the UK's deficit, the Prime Minister denied over and over again that any
    budget cuts were involved. This is clearly an untenable position he has now, at last, abandoned.

    Mr Brown is not on trial here. He is merely a top politician arguing vehemently that he is a man of good, ethical and caring character. As you so rightly say Nick, based on the consistent mountain of evidence laid out above, the People must now decide whether the PM's self-image is reflected by the reality of his behaviour.

  • Comment number 65.

    #52, "There is near consensus about his correct management of the banking crisis". Are you serious?

    It seems to me the dozens of economists who totally failed to see the crisis coming, and indeed went so far as to say there was no way it could have been predicted, think he has done the right thing.

    Economists who actually saw it coming many years ago seem to take a different view of how to deal with it. I know which I'd go with.

  • Comment number 66.

    the description of gordon brown fits me to a tee when you look at how ineffectual your efforts are with a carrot you try a stick i think when you have a really simple idea which seems to elude the crew one realises that most galley's would never leave the harbour unless someone on occasion was tramping up and down the alleyway with a rather large whip
    in gordons case we are told that ministers have solutions but the organisations they are supposed to control are uncontrollable

  • Comment number 67.

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

  • Comment number 68.

    Several of you have pointed out that a boss who is incapable of controlling his temper is one you'd not care to work for.

    I agree. But I don't work for Brown: he works for me. And someone who cannot even keep a grip on himself is someone I don't want working for me...

    I shall have something to say on the matter come May when he's up for his 'performance review' :)

  • Comment number 69.

    55 Dr Bob

    Tunnel Vision or what??

    "Sure, some banks were naughty"

    Talk about understatement!!

    In case you hadn't noticed (or choose to ignore) national regulatory regimes in any country made not a jot of difference in protecting the country from the impacts of the GLOBAL BANKING CRISIS.

    Regulation could never have stopped these massive banks dealing internationally in Assestt Backed derivatives mostly sold out of the USA backed by supposed triple A rating from the very credit agencies you now fear will downgrade the UK's credit rating! Forgive me for feeling that S&P et Al are part cause of the problem and deserve our Wrath as much as the Banks.

    No Government could stop the Private Banks making these deals any more than they could stop M&S selling underwear.

    All this hindsight wisdom is fine, harping on about the deficit now as the Tories are would have some credibility if thet did it in 2007 BUT they didn't infact they (as Bryhers said) intended to spend at Labour levels so clearly not that worried about the deficit then, only now with hindsight.

    as I reminded...


  • Comment number 70.

    Gordon Brown was not a good chancellor but was lucky in inheriting an extremely strong economy. His policies not only weakened that economy but, coupled with the recent downturn and his failure to appreciate the need to put aside savings for such an event, we now find this country where it is today. The man is a bully. I have saved all my life as did my mother, a widow for some twenty years. For whom I tried to do as much as I could, while maintaining my own home and career. I do not have a husband and have striven to be self sufficient. I would never trust that man with our economy or our country. David Cameron's outlook is for policies to get this country back on its feet( his demonstrable attitude to his disabled son, the anniversary of whose death will be next week was indicative of that)and to be treated as a joke and a'novice' is, frankly, appalling. Gordon Brown has no respect for others who far from being shallow have to ensure their approach is not hijacked by such an inscrutable bully. Thank God for the election.

  • Comment number 71.

    This PM-without-mandate has been showing many signs of a personality disorder, not helped by the fact he insisted on going into a job well out of his depth (exacerbated by the crises of the last 18 months). Sycophants and critics in turn fill up and empty his sense of self perception which his own low self esteem cannot hold stable.

    Given the state of UK politics in the last 20 years it's a moot point whether any sane and intelligent person would want to participate after the initiation when idealism or patriotism has been knocked out of them. The culture and system of our politics need radical disinfecting; if Cameron becomes the man to do it he may well martyr himself in the process. As Hague belatedly points out, the status quo is a poisoned chalice of some 13 years' making through incompetence, deliberately made more so in the last 12 months in the face of certain Labour defeat.


  • Comment number 72.

    60. coleusman wrote:

    "Well, well.
    The Tory lead slumps again, so ex-Tory rag journo Rawnsley just happens to be in a position to disclose all this.

    This is the Tory dirty tricks brigade again, end of."

    He writes for the Guardian/Observer... which Tory rag are you referring to? Or do you see the Observer as Tory?

  • Comment number 73.

    Mr Johnson told the BBC said he had known Mr Brown for 17 years and had "never" heard him raise his voice: "I don't recognise this portrayal of him".what a load of BS there are a hundred and one utube clips of him raising his voice plus the shaking fist.

  • Comment number 74.

    If Brown were accused of "losing it" with the US President, with Angela Merkel, Nicolas Sarkozy or even one of the holders of "the great offices of state" that would be one thing. Not necessarily well advised but understandable and sometimes both necessary and effective. What is never acceptable behaviour is to bully subordinates who are in your power. That speaks of someone who either has lost, or never had, a moral compass.

  • Comment number 75.


    Still the tories fault, eh Eaton?

    .... theres always someone else to blame.

  • Comment number 76.

    The problem with this coming out now is that even if true it's inherently biased in that it only questions Browns interactions with staff. If we’re going to have a debate about this pre election then let it be a full two sided debate about how to treat people in the workplace and not another Tory smear campaign
    I'm pretty sure Cameron would never dream of shouting at staff, instead he'd go to their immediate boss moan at them and get them to bully and shout at the staff member. That is, after all, standard management practice these days and would make him a typical boss.
    Personally I'd rather have Browns direct approach where ultimately I can, if I choose, shout back, walk out &/or complain about him rather than the "Modern Management" approach where I could only get back at the intermediary and the real culprit is untouchable. I can vouch from personal experience that the latter is far more frustrating, stressful and dishonest.

  • Comment number 77.


    Just as well rebutters like you dont charge double bubble on a sunday as well, innit?

  • Comment number 78.

    More of the same old Vichy Labour apologist bulldust. Tribal voters and those too proud and dug in to admit they've backed the wrong horse.


  • Comment number 79.

    He may well have bipolar .

  • Comment number 80.


    So, you feel you have to answer for him Eaton? Has he not got his own tongue in his head?

    Or is he the same as all the labour supporters, a quiver full of lies, spin and slogans and clenched fists, but a reality full of we havent got a clue what we're doing and nanny knows best and line your pockets as full as you can.


  • Comment number 81.

    #62 - If you can't stand the heat, get ouf of the kitchen. Go Gordon and settle for the memoirs and pension.

  • Comment number 82.

    BoilerBill @45 expounds on how "bully" has become a misused word.

    The Prime Minister of the UK screaming at and manhandling very junior civil servants who cannot by any means defend or protect themselves is the essence of "bullying" - beat up on a helpless victim! Such staff our powerless since he is who he is, if they complain they can be shipped back to filing somewhere "not a punishment of course..."

    We need strong leaders, but I can never remember reading of (say) Churchill lashing out at the "garden girls"

  • Comment number 83.

    Mr. Brown's actions are unacceptable. That the leader of this country is unable to control his temper and to treat people which such disrespect is surely a sign of his immaturity and unfitness for the office of PM. The idea that "well, this is just the way he is, a perfectionist" is not an excuse; he MUST rise above his own weaknesses and be a LEADER.

  • Comment number 84.

    I forgot in my 32 post to mention a boss who was like Brown and bullied his staff. I was in an adjoining section.

    One morning one of the bullied waited for him in a subway with an axe. He was only saved cos a passing police motorcyclist could see down into the subway and intervened.

    The poor chap went to prison but the attacked chap got no sympathy and it sure stopped any mangement by force for a very long time.

  • Comment number 85.

    If there was genuine bullying going on, and GB has been in office for a long time, I'm sure there would have been a court case by now.

    If its a case of getting angry, well not many of us would stand up to scrutiny on that one.

    Also, Im not sure I would want a PM that doesnt get angry.

    Just like I doubt any great football manager could be so by being nice all the time.

  • Comment number 86.

    Last week it was Alastair Campbell, this week it's the unelected "Deputy PM" Peter Mandelson. Really, Labour is just trying to re-run the 1997 election all over again. They think people are stupid to realise that they've been running the country for the last 13 years - instead they are still trying to blame the Tories for everything. It's time to accept that the country is in the state it is because of the fact that Labour have been in power for 13 years.

  • Comment number 87.

    The allegations and the denials all seem eerily reminiscent of when Charles Kennedy's drinking was being exposed. However, Kennedy was able to come out and come clean - he was only leading the Lib Dems. If the Prime Minister of a country in deep financial woe has personality probelms, we have the right to know and he has a duty to step aside.

  • Comment number 88.

    65. At 3:55pm on 21 Feb 2010, ThoughtCrime wrote:
    #52, "There is near consensus about his correct management of the banking crisis". Are you serious?

    Extremely serious,compare his behaviour with Hank Paulson of the US Federal Reserve who allowed Lehmann Brothers to fail, sparking the critical phase of the banking crisis for which he has now apologized. Brown, by taking a lead in securing deposits,nationalizing banks and underpinning the system with asset guaruntees and quantitative easing,earned the praise of the global economic community.

    The political focus should be on the economic crisis rather than the debt which is a consequence of it.The focus on debt has distorted priorities and resulted in confusion.Resolve the crisis, revenues,output and employment improves.Cut too soon,revenues,employment,output implodes.A sovereign debt crisis becomes probable.

  • Comment number 89.

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

  • Comment number 90.


    Well, some of the things of Gordon Brown's alleged habits regarding of his behaviour are of course (are) concerning...But, they DON'T Led to anything that most of any else has to deal with....

    Being a leader of a country is stressful and, what he is dealing with is a lot of stress....


  • Comment number 91.

    Unstable & unelectable but sadly in office but perhaps not for long. If this is just the start of the revelations I cannot imagine what else is to come out. How this man was ever allowed to waltz unelected by his peers & party into No. 10 is unbelievable. They may deserve the leader they have but we don't but sadly he will delay until the last gasping moment. Then he will be gone and we can try to unravel the mess this 'Iron Chancellor' has made and then history will deal with his inept handling of the economy. But sadly our children get to pay.

  • Comment number 92.

    Governing a country like the UK is very hard work - whichever party is in power - and it requires special people. Inevitably, these people are very demanding of their family and their staff. To some, this is upsetting. Fair enough. However, if you are a shrinking violet perhaps you should work in a florist shop, not for a minister or a head of state. I'd rather have a strong and hard working person for Prime Minister than some polite, kind and considerate person who is rubbish at governing but wonderful to the staff.

  • Comment number 93.

    "Bullying, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder."

    Come on Nick some of us have been around for quite a while and are not going to swallow this sort of statement.

    Look the fact is people in positions of power need to follow the same ethics as others. Being PM in no manner enables someone to use violence whether it is verbalk or emotional on another person - my take is that this is just another nail in Labour's coffin.

    One last thought - bullies tend to get their comeuppance eventually as they tend to alienate more and more people - I don't see many people jumping to Gordon's rescue barring the lord of darkness himself...

  • Comment number 94.

    "Quite why we voted this guy to be PM I have no idea because we should have looked more carefully before selecting him to such a position."

    The fact is *we* the public never voted or were given a chance to vote on him.

    Now we are about to get the chance come the general election.

  • Comment number 95.

    "Strong and hard working" does not equal capable, Wiltsman. Maturity and self-possession usual do. Brown will eventually go down in history as Incapability Brown!

  • Comment number 96.

    Personally I'd rather castigate Gordon Brown for his incompetence rather than his demeanour.

    Considering he makes such as bad job of managing the country, is it really any surprise that he makes such a bad job of managing his own staff?

  • Comment number 97.

    Oh dear I see my 84 has suffered death by moderation.

    It appears in a blog about bullying at work one is not allowed to relate a case where
    the bullied took the law into his own hands and got 2 years for it.

    Cant be off topic! Must be too horrific for your eyes. I do sometimes wonder where the mods are coming from.

  • Comment number 98.

    Two main points

    1 - Just about everyone had heard roumours of Brown being a bully before he became PM, that didn't stop just about everyone in the press effectivly helping in a media coup to remove our properly electied PM (Tony Blair) from power and replace him with Brown.

    2 - Was this an "investigation" and "a warning" or is that journalistic hyperbole to describe friendly advice to a politician from his leading official? We don't and may never know.

    Why won't we know Nick? Oh I know, because Journalists won't reveal their sources, we are expected to take the word of some random guy who writes a politics column for a paper that this is a "24 carot" source! I have lost count how many times in the last year the public have not had the information they needed to make such a decision because the media won't say who. So we are left to guess and speculate and no-one ever really investigates if the media have ANY sources or are just making this stuff up! On the bullying if Brown was as bad as has been claimed and this country is as PC liberal as most people on HYS have you believe he'd have been taken to a tribunal by now! Where is the David Beckham style incident where someone in the cabinet walks out of a meeting with a plaster on their face? So what if he shouts at them? Most people on here would shout at a politican quite loud if given a chance! Most of the people in the cabinet will turn around and leak to the press the moment it suites therre interest.

    As usual the media have published and run with a story that is short on detail, short on sources and is effectivly just a bit of gossip, the standard of journalism in this country is a discrage, there is no information in any of the reports on this story that can help a person make an informed decision so the Brown haters just belive it and those who like him don't. Not a surprise though that this comes from a Tory supporting paper as the polls show yet another closing of the gap. Maybe we should just get rid of the politicians and the Queen and let the media take the power the wield in darkness, we'd be the worlds first Meidaocracy. Peston for Chancellor, Fergus for Health and maybe Robinson for PM?

  • Comment number 99.

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

  • Comment number 100.

    Quote 'So, is he a bully? Bullying, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.'

    Rubbish. Bullying is socially and morally unacceptable, and is not an example a PM should be demonstrating. He would be expelled from school, fired from employment. Why should he be any different?
    If the grey beards had been strong enough, they should have revolted. But as Rawnsley said, there hasn't been two unelected PM's since the post war era.
    He needs to keep his eye on the ball and his job, and if it's too hot, get out the kitchen Brown.


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