For several days now, and with greater intensity since the relaunch issue of the Observer yesterday, the talk in Politics Land has been about suggestions that Pa Broon may have acted towards his staff in a way that verged on bullying. Well, is he or isn’t he – and what if he is?
What indeed. The B-word was bandied about during the Blair years, especially when Big Al was mentioned, and the attribute has also been given to Broon courtier Baron Mandelson of Indeterminate Guacamole. Young Dave doesn’t escape either: his new bestest friend Andy Coulson was at the heart of a proven bullying culture when at the helm of the Murdoch News Of The World, which came to light following a record payout recently. So when Dave decided to call for an enquiry into the Observer revelations, he was displaying a serious amount of brass neck.
The Cameron intervention was no more than routine mischief making, and I doubt that it will advance Young Dave’s position, far less reveal anything about what goes on within 10 Downing Street. Neither can I have any confidence that the behaviour of Christine Pratt of the National Bullying Helpline (NBH) will shed light rather than heat: Ms Pratt has already drawn fire for apparently breaching confidentiality, and NBH has lost two of its patrons to resignation as a result of her intervention.
So what will happen next? If Brown really has behaved as some have suggested, then it’s down to his party as to whether they want to continue under his leadership. But that’s a big if. And, in any case, as none of this will be news to those who interact with the PM on a regular basis, there may well be a collective shrug of the shoulders, with no more action taken.
As ever, public perception could influence matters, but thus far there have been all manner of negative stories about Brown, and the upshot of all these has been a tightening in the latest opinion poll, showing a Tory lead of just 6%. As I’ve noted before, in 1992 there were two polls before the General Election campaign showing an 8% lead for Labour, and they lost.