Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Monday, 22 February 2010

#Bullygate - "Someone on your side did it too" is no defence

I have been following the consequences of the publication of the extracts from Andrew Rawnsley's new book in the Observer yesterday about Brown's temper and alleged bullying of his staff over the last couple of days.

The first thing that struck me was just how determined lots of Labour tweeters and bloggers were to instantly try and dismiss the claims. They immediately came up with the #RawnsleyRot hashtag on Twitter and tried to smear Rawnsley himself. The various defences attempted that I have seen are that there is no evidence for his claims (Rawnsley insists that his sources are 24 carat and has been researching this book for three years), Rawnsley has form for having made mistakes in the past (I am sure we could do that with all journalists) and what has been revealed is not actually bullying but Gordon angry with himself (I am not sure the secretary who was allegedly pulled out of her chair would see it like that if that is true).

The worst defence I have seen though which I have seen repeated numerous times is that Andy Coulson (Cameron's spin doctor) is a proven bully and therefore no Tories are allowed to comment about the allegations against Brown or the "people in glass houses defence". I was one of those to suggest at the time that Coulson's behaviour was totally wrong and that Cameron should get rid of him but the reasoning here is pretty weak stuff. It is reminiscent of the sort of thing you see Brown do sometimes with Cameron across the dispatch box when Cameron has asked a question and Brown responds "I'll take no lessons from the man who was an advisor when interest rates were 15%" or some other such false point. Just because Andy Coulson is a bully does not make the allegations against Brown any better. It also does not invalidate questions from Tories just because someone in their party has also bullied in the past.

I expect that some people in the Lib Dems have been involved in bullying in the past too. Does that mean I am barred from discussing this issue too?

For what it is worth, I think that Rawnsley's allegations must be very soundly sourced otherwise I do not think the Observer would have dared publish them. Indeed as far as I am aware there have been no moves by Brown or his lawyers to launch a libel action against the paper which surely, if any of these stories were fabricated he would have done straight away? I also think Rawnsley was right to publish them.

We have a right to know how our Prime Minister who is seeking another 5 year mandate operates. Just because other people in other parties may have also been guilty of bad behaviour does not mean we should all shut up about this.


Kalvis Jansons said...

However, we are not allowed to ask him to stop:

Rejected Petition

Duncan Stott said...

Spot on.

A similar point could be made about the Chris Grayling dodgy crime stats kerfuffle a few weeks ago. Grayling's defence was "Labour and the Lib Dems do it too". That doesn't justify anything.

Indeed all you are effectively saying when you use this argument is 'we are just as bad as our opposition'. Surely a political party should aspire to be better than its opponents?

Matthew Taylor said...

That line's being peddled by Campbell and Prescott, which is probably the point - Mandelson took the bolder, but ultimately better, approach of hitting Rawnsley himself.

Constantly Furious said...

This is exactly the pathetic defence my kids try on:

"Did you take a biscuit?"

"Yes, but so did she"

Doesn't work with them, shouldn't work with Labour.

Anonymous said...

Just ask Lembit O'Prick about bullying. Ask him about th emember of staff who left his Newtown office due to his bullying, but didn't want to make an official complaint because she thought it would destroy her chances of standing for the Libs. Ask his "girlfriends" about his bullying. Especially ask the Cheeky Girl. THE reason why he goes for absurdly young and dim girlies. Only Siane Lloyd stood up to him and HE couldn't stand that......

Anonymous said...

This won't go down well with the mouth-breathers on notbbc ;-)

Twig said...

As I have commented elsewhere "...Andy Coulson is not the PM, he's not even an MP, and we're not paying his salary..."

If the allegations are not true surely Labour's lawyers would be suing for libel.

revinkevin said...

This is typical Labour defence, smear your opponents when you have been caught doing wrong.

They are the nasty party after all.

Anonymous said...

Its pretty disappointing to see the Lib Dems suckered into supporting this witch-hunt like Clegg clearly has been. Rawnsley's arguments form part of a consistant narrative which stems back to The Sun's rather nasty attempt to take Brown to task for his handwriting. Nothing is proven but alot is suggested; the fact is that people in power have a certain mentality which often isnt expressed in a pleasent way but is often very demanding which could be construed and spun as bullying.

None of the human dynamics are taken into account here (nor is the probably involvement of the Conservatives at some level)nor is the lack of proof of guilt; instead Clegg just gleefully hopped on the bandwagon thus proving that his claim to offer something fresh in politics is rather superficial.