Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Bully or Not, These Claims Did Harm

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Bully or Not, These Claims Did Harm

Article excerpt


DURING the course of his long career, Gordon Brown can have faced few more humiliating episodes than having to run the gauntlet of journalists last Monday shouting the question: "Are you a bully, Prime Minister?" A man dedicated to the pursuit of social justice, and with a genuine concern for the underdog, found himself accused of unforgivable behaviour towards junior staff in no position to fight back.

Whatever the truth of the situation - and it has to be said that Downing Street's carefully-worded denials were somewhat less than convincing - the revelations by journalist Andrew Rawnsley have certainly done Mr Brown no favours.

They do not make him a bad man. But as the election looms, they certainly raise questions about his ability to deal with the pressures of his role, and hence whether he is up to another five years in office.

Talk of the "character question" in relation to Prime Ministers invariably leads to speculation about how some of our great leaders of the past may have fared under the media spotlight today's politicians must endure.

Was Winston Churchill a bully, for instance? Almost certainly, yes, but arguably some of those self-same character traits helped us win the Second World War.

Would the sexually rapacious David Lloyd George have survived the kind of intense scrutiny of his private life that modern-day politicians undergo? Almost certainly not.

And just what on earth would the tabloids do to a latter-day Gladstone who was found to be in the habit of touring round the streets of London at night trying to rescue fallen women from a life of vice? So I am always tempted to allow politicians a certain amount of leeway in terms of their individual character flaws, on the grounds that these can - and often do - go hand in hand with genius.

That said, the public is surely right to expect its leaders to treat those around them with respect, and to ensure their private behaviour matches their publicly-stated ideals. …

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