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Gordon Brown PM

Claims in Andrew Rawnsley’s new book that Gordon Brown is a bruiser who likes to intimidate his staff are occupying the popular press this morning – but it’s doubtful whether this will have any bearing on the outcome of the election.

Sure, no one likes a bully – and notwithstanding last week’s hugely spun appearance with Piers Morgan, the Prime Minister isn’t anyone’s idea of a cuddly “new man” in touch with his emotions.

Brown is either an effective Prime Minister or he isn’t – and that will be the key to whether he’s re-elected.

That isn’t to justify bullying. It is wrong. But there’s a fine line between passionate engagement with your job – which includes exhorting others to do their best – and maliciously denigrating colleagues with the aim of undermining their morale.

As Labour MP Stephen Pound has observed, Sir Alex Ferguson’s “hairdryer” is revered in the football world – yet one of his half-time bollockings delivered at full blast would, by the standards of an ordinary office, be considered bullying.

In the same way, we can hardly expect the PM, with the pressures of state bearing down on him, to be always calm and measured.

Just like Brown, Mrs Thatcher had tantrums, and her temper was feared by friends and colleagues as much as by her opponents.

In politics, instilling a “healthy respect” in friends and foes alike is a commonplace.

The fact that members of Number 10 staff felt moved to contact the National Bullying Helpline (patron Anne Widdecombe) is of course a cause for concern; but so too are the actions of a charity which appears to have breached the basic tenet of confidentiality.

In any event, the media are the last people to issue lectures on the matter.

A newsroom is no place for a shrinking violet, and no one who has worked on papers, radio or television will have escaped a tongue lashing – perhaps unjustified – from time to time.

No doubt the same is true for those working in the highest offices of state.

These are not ordinary people working in ordinary jobs, and the voters will make allowances as long as they feel the country is being efficiently run.



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