British PM not a bully

February 22, 2010 12:00 am

, LONDON, Feb 22 – Colleagues of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Monday defended him against allegations he bullies his staff, while a patron of an anti-bullying charity linked to the claims resigned.

The charges, in a book by respected political journalist Andrew Rawnsley, risk blowing a hole in the Labour Party\’s strategy of softening Brown\’s image ahead of an election due to be held by June.

The book claims Brown grabbed one advisor by the jacket lapels and shouted at him, punched the back of a car seat after receiving bad news and repeatedly swore at staff.

Brown is also accused of having "turfed a (secretary) out of her chair and (taken) over the keyboard himself" because she was "not typing fast enough", while a seat in his official car was allegedly "flecked with black marks" where he stabbed it with his pen in frustration.

Brown\’s Downing Street office labelled the allegations published in Sunday\’s Observer newspaper as "malicious" and "totally without foundation".

The head of the National Bullying Helpline, Christine Pratt, raised the stakes on Sunday when she alleged that members of Brown\’s staff had called the charity.

But when asked Monday if anyone who had spoken to the helpline had alleged Brown had bullied them, she told the BBC: "Absolutely not, and nor have we said that Gordon Brown is a bully."

One of the charity\’s patrons resigned, accusing Pratt of breaching the confidentiality of callers.

Professor Cary Cooper, an expert on workplace stress, said: "I am resigning now on the grounds that I think she breached confidentiality.

"One of the things that is really important for any helpline or any counselling service is to retain confidentiality of the people calling up."

Another patron of the charity, Ann Widdecombe, is a veteran lawmaker from the opposition Conservatives, who are leading Labour in opinion polls.

Widdecombe distanced herself from Pratt\’s allegations, saying it was inappropriate for her to divulge the contents of callers\’ conversations.

But Pratt was defiant, saying Brown should investigate the allegations rather than getting his office to flatly deny them.

"We would have hoped that Gordon Brown would have said that he was looking into this, that due process was being followed, and that he takes these issues seriously," she said.

She also admitted she was unsure exactly how many calls had been made from government workers.

"I knew that there were two from the Deputy Prime Minister\’s office and another two or more from the PM\’s office. The number is irrelevant," she told BBC radio.

Business Secretary Peter Mandelson led the defence of Brown, saying the picture painted by Rawnsley was "not one I recognise".

"I don\’t think he so much bullies people as is very demanding of people, he\’s demanding of himself," Mandelson said.

"There\’s a degree of impatience about the man but what would you like, some kind of shrinking violet at the helm of the government?"

Brown recently gave an hour-long prime-time TV interview in which he spoke candidly about holding his daughter Jennifer before she died 10 days after her birth, in what was widely seen as a strategy to \’humanise\’ his dour image.

But journalists say his short temper is widely discussed in Westminster.

His parliamentary aide Labour lawmaker Anne Snelgrove, who has links to the charity, challenged Pratt to prove that the calls "really have come from staff at Number 10 (Downing Street)".


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