Leading article: A bad temper should not be confused with bullying

The criticisms of the Prime Minister's behaviour have been exaggerated

Share
Related Topics

Recent revelations certainly paint an unappealing picture of daily life in Downing Street under the Premiership of Gordon Brown We have heard tales of a short-tempered Prime Minister, who sometimes shouts, swears and generally stomps around like a bear with a sore head. There have been reports of staff being bawled at, sometimes unfairly, and even, on a couple of occasions, senior advisers being grabbed and shoved aside.

Yet it is important to remember what has not been included in this unflattering picture. No allegations have been made of Mr Brown striking anyone, or throwing mobile phones at staff, despite rumours in recent months that such incendiary charges were about to be levelled at the Prime Minister. And there have been no reports or complaints of systematic persecution of individuals working in Number 10.

Mr Brown stands accused of uncivilised and unbecoming behaviour, but not malicious, and certainly not criminal, behaviour. Unpleasant though it might be, this is not what most people would consider to be bullying. All of which makes the intervention of Christine Pratt, of the National Bullying Helpline, look rather strange.

At the weekend Ms Pratt claimed that staff from Downing Street had contacted her organisation. This prompted the Conservatives yesterday to call for an official investigation into what has taken place. Ms Pratt says she "saw red" after ministers rallied around the Prime Minister at the weekend and contradicted some of the allegations. But Ms Pratt admits herself that she has no evidence that Mr Brown bullied staff; and nor, apparently, has she heard any allegations to that effect. In which case, one wonders about the wisdom of her decision to go public, especially bearing in mind her duty of confidentiality to those who contact her organisation. Several of the patrons of Ms Pratt's charity felt strongly enough about this breach of confidence to resign yesterday.

Bullying is a deplorable phenomenon in any workplace, and Downing Street is no exception. But there is a difference – perhaps a relatively fine one, but a difference nonetheless – between a boss with a bad temper and a boss who is a bully. There is no evidence that Mr Brown has crossed that line. And it therefore seems unwise for the opposition parties to add fuel to this story by demanding further inquiries.

That is not to say that this weekend's revelations do not raise questions about Mr Brown's character. But the temper tantrums should be less cause for public concern than the reports that the Prime Minister's aides engaged in poisonous briefings against fellow Cabinet ministers. The Downing Street bellowing is less alarming than the revelation that the Prime Minister initially misjudged the seriousness of the financial crisis. Mr Brown's raging is less troubling than the image of a leader who is unable to delegate responsibility.

It is legitimate for voters to consider Mr Brown's character when they cast their votes in the forthcoming general election, not least because the Prime Minister has sought to make it an issue. But questions of personality should really be balanced by some appreciation of the serious policy choices that face Britain. And, just as importantly, Mr Brown should not be pilloried for crimes that he has not committed.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Day In a Page

Read Next
George Osborne appearing on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, 5 July 2015  

George Osborne says benefits should be capped at £20,000 to meet average earnings – but working families take home £31,500

Ellie Mae O'Hagan
The BBC has agreed to fund the £650m annual cost of providing free television licences for the over-75s  

Osborne’s assault on the BBC is doing Murdoch’s dirty work

James Cusick James Cusick
Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

Power of the geek Gods

Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

Perfect match

What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high