Monday, February 22, 2010

Brown - the real problem is with the behaviour he admits.

Unexpectedly stranded at home and unable to attend a trustee meeting of Re:generate in Derby, I have had more time to follow Twitter and listen to the unfolding story of Mr Brown. Interesting just how party political this has become - OK, I know there is an election coming, allegedly........but I would like to think if this kind of allegation was made against Nick Clegg we would welcome an investigation even if we regarded the allegation as ludicrous.

It seems to me Brown has a real problem though, all he and Mandelson have denied is him hitting anyone. He admits to throwing things when he gets angry - I work in a big, open plan office - I have never seen anyone throwing anything, however frustrated they are. I have worked with bullies (one of whom was sacked for her bullying), I have represented many union members who were being bullied, but in spite of their aggressive and intimidating behaviour, none of these people was ever accused of throwing anything. Mandelson, it seems to me, compounded the problem with his interview on Andrew Marr yesterday - he "took his medicine like a man" - er right. So he, as more or less an equal of Brown, thinks because he could take unspecified behaviour, which presumably was unpleasant (hold your nose and swallow hard), everyone else, whatever their position, should do the same. Bullying is invariably the abuse of power by someone more powerful than the recipient. It is not about intention it is about impact. Brown may not have intended to upset anyone when he shouted or threw things around, that's not the point.

I can only imagine how intimidating it may be to be in an office with someone who is getting so angry they have started throwing things, be they newspapers or brick bats. If it happened in my office, even if it were my Director, I would expect some sort of action to be taken. It seems to me that what this shows us about Brown is his total lack of self awareness and emotional intelligence. If he thought that he had the right to behave like that, if he never stopped to think about the impact his behaviour may be having on those around him, if he had no notion of the great responsibility of his office and the great privilege it affords him, then I for one completely understand why so many of his colleagues have lost their trust in him.

But I am equally appalled at the actions of the National Bullying Hotline. It takes a huge amount of courage for anyone to report workplace bullying. Let's not forget it is only in very recent years it has been taken seriously. I can remember being laughed at by councillors in Bedfordshire when I raised the issue, what I was describing only happened in schools! If anyone from Brown's office did call, they called because they didn't have the confidence to approach anyone internally and because they were presumably worried about anyone internally knowing what was going on. To have that trust betrayed by the people they turned to in their time of need is inexcusable.

This country faces unbelievable challenges, the most pressing of which, from my perspective, is the growing inequality and unfairness. I have no doubt that Gordon Brown is a man, despite the clear failure of his government, who is very exercised by this. I have no reason to doubt what he says about his concern to tackle poverty in this country and across the world. How tragic then, that it appears, having been given the opportunity to really make a difference that only a handful ever get, he seems to have become so arrogant as to think he can behave as he pleases, regardless of the impact on others. Fairness is about how we treat each other as individuals, as well as a society.

It is really not good enough for Mandelson and Brown to try and create a smokescreen and claim this is all a politically inspired operation to undermine the Prime Minister - it may well be, but surely, the adult thing to do would be to immediately promise an investigation. After all, as I have already intimated, most responsible adults, however frustrated, would throw little more than the odd inappropriate comment around the office.

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