Monday, February 22, 2010

Just who is being bullied here?

It has become a fair question, is it Gordon Brown who is being bullied by a hostile media; Christine Pratt of the National Bullying Helpline - just to maintain balance and perhaps due to the whiff of blood the pack now have; the Conservatives who some allege to be behind Pratt sticking her head above the parapet? Its all really a bit bizarre.

At any point anyone in a position of power can be accused of bullying, people management is a skill which some have and some don't. What the atmosphere is really like inside No. 10 Downing Street is not fully discussed. It is either very tranquil and calm and the leader is benign, or everyone appears to be in constant fear that Gordon Brown will explode in a rage - my suspicion is there is a lot of the former and a little of the latter but that certain events get exaggerated to make a good story. Whether some staff have or do feel aggrieved is something that should firstly be handled internally and not used for political capital at the end of the day; there are after all procedures that any organisation would expect its employees and employers to follow.

What has become rather odd is that some fairly vague allegations supplied by Andrew Ranwnsley and published in yesterdays Observer have become a huge story; tales of Brown's temper are old news and I remember Andrew Marr asking who is Gordon Brown about 4-5 years ago in a BBC special - the opening music was 'Monster' by The Automatic. Brown denied one thing, ever hitting anyone. Mandelson denied a little more than that. Then Christine Pratt waded in to tell the world that her helpline has received calls from employees of No. 10.

Whatever the political argument this is a breach of confidence and as much has been said several times. Why she did this is open to question and the finger has pointed at the Conservative party as engineering this as part of a personalised dirty tricks campaign. Not out of the question and sadly a part of politics - McBride et al are part of a long tradition here. The damage to the NBH organisation and perhaps the Conservatives if links are proven could be serious, especially if there is no evidence that Pratt's claims are truthful. It has certainly brought NBH into the spotlight and a posts here and here have been circulated arguing "if you call the National Bullying Helpline for help, because you believe you’re being bullied at work, and you follow their advice, they might tell your employer that you are the bully, call your grievance vexatious, and leave you in a worse position than when you started". Of course the opposition parties are calling for an enquiry while Labour deny all allegations. The whole affair seems a huge mess to be honest and I tend to agree with Mandelson's comments (which I rarely say) he suggests ""I assumed that this was a storm in a teacup manufactured by somebody who wanted to get some good headlines for his book... It now looks like more of a political operation that's under way, directed at the prime minister personally." I would not personally accuse Andrew Rawnsley, but it does seem rather a convenient series of events and the idea of Pratt talking because she felt that the government was in denial is a rather odd line of argument.

Politics is perhaps becoming too personal and this is a symptom of this. Brown as a figure polarises public opinion. Cameron is not exactly more popular but not as unpopular. But neither should be seen as an endorsement. Attacks seem to be more and more personal, particularly against Brown, and from a wide range or sources. Within the hypermedia age anyone can say anything and it become a piece of political/election communication. Perhaps this is Christine Pratt's role, it was a personal move for political reasons, any more would be an accusation and even this is conjecture. But there is a big why question and it relates full circle to where I started with this ramble. Who is being bullied here? Brown is constantly under fire for being himself, one wonders how much sympathy such attacks earn him and reinforce images of the 'nasty' opposition. It may not matter who did what, to whom, or why; it is public perceptions that matter and it may be that these attacks actually help Brown far more than the range of oppositional forces think as they continue these attacks.

1 comment:

Shane said...

Is Alastair back?!

The way this story has panned out over the day is like the glory days for the New Labour press machine.

After Rawnsley yesterday I guess the red tops and the gutter press (Mail) picked it up and ran on the front page, I think the story is likely to have changed momentum tomorrow morning.

This morning on the Today programme Humphreys gave Anne Snelgrove a bit of a bashing and while she held her own the Labour Party was still swimming against the tide, by the time of PM and 6 o'clock news, the Labour Party had turned it on it's head.

Mandelson was on the money with his swipe at the Pratt, the Tories and the media, even Prescott got in on the act with a bit of Tory bashing.

Then to make matters wholly worse for Pratt a couple of pratrons resign, and even Ann Widecombe had time to stop spouting rubbish about the 'truth' of the Bible to jump out of the fying pan hoping to avoid the fire.

The Tories deserve to lose on this, after all Thatcher bullied her way through 11 years of government, which is far too often recounted with glee by any number of Tories in countless drab BBC 4 documentaries.

If nothing else I can see an official announcement of an election date coming off the back of this.