Note – I started this post at around 3pm on Sunday, before any of the latest ‘revelations’ became known. I shall update accordingly.
The press today are awash with two British politics stories.
The first is that the Tory lead is down to 6%, which is in part attributed, by the Times at least, to Brown’s truly awful TV appearance last weekend with Piers Morgan. If you haven’t seen it, you cannot possibly know how eat-your-own-face horrifying and cynical it was. As someone tweeted at the time, “Interview conducted by Lord Morgan designate”.
The second is the story of the ‘revelations’ in Andrew Rawnsley’s new book, The End of the Party. Specifically:
If you’ve read any accounts of Brown, be they by Tom Bower, Rawnsley or Alastair Campbell, nothing in the article is a revelation at all – it’s precisely what we’d expect from Brown. Indeed, much of the account is pretty much standard fare to corporate life. Indeed, some on Twitter pointed out that this management style seems to work perfectly well for the comically deified Steve Jobs of Apple. It’s not made Alan Sugar poor either. For example:
In 2007, after Mr Brown’s speech to the Labour Party conference, it was reported that large sections of the speech had been copied from speeches given by US politicians.
Mr Brown is reported to have blamed Bob Shrum, his US consultant and speech writer, over the report.
He is quoted as screaming at the American: “How could you do this to me, Bob? How could you —-ing do this to me?"
In the circumstances it seems like a perfectly proper question. Or this:
In another incident, Mr Brown is said to have angrily rounded on Stewart Wood, an Oxford don and political adviser, moments before a meeting with European ambassadors in Downing Street.
“Why have I got to meet these —-ing people?" he is said to have yelled at Mr Wood, shoving him in the arm. “Why are you making me meet these —ing people?”
Again, in the position of prime minister I’d ask exactly the same question.
Of course there are the traditional hints at paranoia:
In the autumn of 2007, Gavin Kelly, the deputy chief of staff at No 10, told Mr Brown that HM Revenue and Customs had lost computer discs holding the personal data of more than 20 million people.
The scandal was a major embarrassment to the Government, and the book records that Mr Brown responded by grabbing Mr Kelly by the lapels and shouting: “They’re out to get me!”
Errr okay. My point though is that none of this is new stuff.
UPDATE1: The head of an anti-bullying charity confirms claims that several calls were made to her charity’s helpline by Brown’s staff. As pointed out by Old Holborn:
PREVENTING and tackling bullying remains a priority for this government. We have committed around £3.7 million this year to anti-bullying programmes.- Gordon Brown 13th December 2009. Source
LOL then.. but it always made me laugh to hear Eddie Balls rattling on about the evils of bullying, too.
Meanwhile The Telegraph gives us a timeline so far, and Jonathan Freedland in the Graun concurs with my assessment:
As the markets would put it, Brown’s temperament is already "in the price", and can therefore be discounted.
All in all, Brown may be an ogre, but, for fucks sake, grown adults working at the centre of government calling an anti-bullying helpline? Get a spine or fuck off.
I suppose that’s Labour’s fault for their ambitious and uniquely successful programme of the pussification of the British public.
Expect to see stories coming out of the woodwork senior Tories (possibly including Thatch & Tebbit) ‘bullying’ staff. I’m willing to bet the Labour attack monkeys are looking for just that ammunition right now.
UPDATE2: Ben Goldacre ‘cries massive bullshit’ on the ‘National Bullying Helpline’.
UPDATE3: A (presumably old guard) Tory MP agrees with me.
Just ran into a Tory MP who believes that bullying prime ministers aren’t such a big deal.
“Eden was a terrible bully, I’m sure that Churchill was as well…and as for Gladstone, well, he had furious rages,” he ponders. “If you want to work in 10 Downing Street you should be able to withstand a bit of tough treatment now and again.”
Not sure this attitude is shared by CCHQ of course. And no, I won’t name the MP.
UPDATE4: From Paul Waugh
It’s not quite Piers/Gordon, but in some way’s tonight’s SkyNews Jeff Randall interview with David Cameron is more surprising
Randall, one of the most respected biz journos* around, famously disliked a young D Cameron when he was at Carlton TV back in the 1990s.
Here’s just a wee recap of Randall’s assessment back in 2005:
"I wouldn’t trust him with my daughter’s pocket money.
"In my experience, he never gave a straight answer when dissemblance was a plausible alternative.
"Whether he flat-out lied I won’t say, but he went a long way to leave me with the impression that the story was wrong. He put up so much verbal tracker you started to lose your own guidance system."
Since then, Cameron has dumped Labour’s spending pledges and Jeff has been sufficiently impressed to give his backing. It’s a good job he switched tack before tonight….
*FOOTNOTE: Randall’s withering assessment was apparently backed up by City journalist Ian King, who called him "a poisonous, slippery individual".
"He was a smarmy bully who regularly threatened journalists. He loved humiliating people, including a colleague at ITV he would abuse publicly as ‘Bunter’, just because the poor bloke was a few pounds overweight.
"He was a mouthpiece for that company’s charmless chairman, Michael Green, who operated him the way Keith Harris works Orville."
Then again, even some of the Tory leader’s friends now concede that he is a changed man since his days at Carlton. Family life smoothed out his rougher edges, they say. The recession, by contrast, seems to have hardened up his line on the economy…