Monday, 22 February 2010

Standard: Move along now... well, in a second.

Most contradictory Leader column of the day award goes to the Evening Standard

Their opening:

“The election campaign is not yet under way and already the question of the Prime Minister's character is an issue... the question remains whether Gordon Brown has the character traits necessary for a good prime minister.”

Their concluding line:

“It would be preferable if the contest between them were fought out on issues of policy, not which man is the nicer person.”

A quick translation:

"Let’s get over whether or not Brown is a bastard and move on. But just so you’re clear - he is a bastard."

A future fair for all (or I’ll punch you in the face).

Bullying. It’s not nice. No one likes being smacked in the head every time you drop a point in the YouGov polls.

But has Christine Pratt, chief executive of the National Bullying Helpline, overstepped the mark with her involvement in the allegations that Gordon Brown bullies his staff, by talking to the media about calls to the helpline and saying she feels his office is in "outright denial”?

Has she breached the golden rule of a confidential helpline that they should not reveal the source of calls? It is one thing when a helpline releases information about, for example, a rise in the number of total calls, but should they announce their specific origin?

If the police put a sign up saying: “If you have any information about the incident on King’s Road please call this confidential phone number...” and I respond, do I expect them to then declare to the public: “We have received information from a resident of King’s Road about this incident”. I hope not.

What if I worked in a very small organisation (say, 4 people) and following a call to the helpline my manager reads in the newspaper that 3 people from my organisation have “called to complain about their manager physically bullying them”. Would that put me off contacting them again?

Also, is it right to treat these calls as fact? Doesn’t claiming that No 10 is in “denial” infer they are proven?

Finally is the issue of any political motivation behind this. It is probably a stretch to assume she is in league with the Tories, but for Ms Pratt to not realise there would be political fallout when she spoke to the media shows at the very least a high degree of naivety. At the worse it can lead to accusations of a lack of impartiality.

Or perhaps this is a touch harsh. Perhaps she is just demonstrating her conviction. Maybe her anger genuinely did spill over and cause her to go a little too far.

Regardless, the damage is done.

For No. 10 there is now a problem. In the unlikely event that Ms Pratt resigns, or just apologises, could they be (rightly or wrongly) accused of smear tactics?

Their best hope is that this quickly blows over. Or that David Cameron is accused of animal cruelty, just to balance things out.

I thought I would add that if you too feel you are the victim of workplace bullying then please call the National Bullying Helpline on 0845 2255787. All calls are confidential. (Sort of.)

Side note: I wanted to headline this “Is Pratt a Prat?”. But that is probably verbal bullying, even if it is bloody hilarious.