Prepare the vocabulary in the first ten paragraphs

I recognise it. I’ve done it myself. But the PM is just a Scot losing his temper — with good reason

So Gordon Brown has gone from Joseph Stalin to Mr Bean and now to Gripper Stebson. Andrew Rawnsley’s flinch-and-tell revelations have been a great source of fun this week. I particularly enjoyed the intervention of the National Bullying Helpline. I find it hard to respect this organisation, largely because no one who works there has realised that they desperately need an “anti” or a “prevention” somewhere in their title. One wonders how many misled bullies have called them up asking for tips on demanding dinner money with menaces, or requesting a factsheet on the Chinese burn.

I’m sure the organisation’s founder, Christine Pratt, who is large, ginger, wears glasses and is called Pratt, knows a fair bit about being bullied, but she didn’t help anyone this week. When she seemingly grassed up the civil servants who’d asked her organisation for assistance, she couldn’t even get the facts straight.

Consequently, poor Ms Pratt became a figure of fun. Phil Woolas, the Immigration Minister, led the assault by calling her “this prat of a woman”. Yes, he cleverly spotted that her surname could be used as a term of abuse. Amazingly, Pratt had no quickfire comeback for this. It surely can’t have been the first time she’d faced that particular line of attack. I really wish she’d given a gutsy example to the bullied of this nation by putting the opportunistic Woolas in his place. Maybe she could have fought fire with fire and pointed out that “Phil Woolas” is what you do when sodomising a sheep. Instead, she let the bully go unchallenged.

As for the charges against Mr Brown, they don’t seem to indicate bullying at all. Every bully has a target, someone they’ve identified as weak and vulnerable. Mr Brown had no target. The only consistent victim of his rage seems to have been a car passenger seat.

Mr Brown railed against the universe. In the Rawnsley extracts, the Prime Minister comes across like a Shakespearean tragic hero. At one point, after he discovers the police are to investigate potentially unlawful party donations, Mr Brown says: “For this to happen to me, it eats my soul.” That’s fantastic. It’s like King Lear in the storm. I wanted Peter Mandelson to appear at his side, call him Nuncle and lead him to shelter.

And what about these poor aides and civil servants who, Rawnsley says, fell victim to the PM’s rage? When Bob Shrum was discovered to have recycled bits from the speeches of Al Gore and Bill Clinton to use in Mr Brown’s speeches, was the PM not entitled to go properly ballistic? I used writers on the latter series of the TV chat show I used to do. If one of them had recycled a joke and sold it to me as an original, they’d have been out on their ear. Mr Brown also went crazy when told that a civil servant had mislaid two computer disks containing the personal and banking details of 20 million people. Quite right too. Was he supposed to just tut and say, “Never mind”?

When I was doing that chat show I got a reputation for being difficult to work with. I introduced a ritual whereby people who’d messed up, including myself, had to raise their hand and say: “I’m sorry, I made a mistake.” Then everyone else would applaud. I think some people saw this as a humiliation. I never shouted or threw things but I did use withering sarcasm as a weapon. I’m not proud of that, but trying to make a funny TV show, week after week, can be a high-pressure activity.

My moods weren’t really about anger; they were about fear — fear of failure and the resulting ridicule. I’ve always said that when I get to the pearly gates, I hope St Peter will offer a special dispensation for show-days. Well, if I got stroppy because someone didn’t get the right video clip to enhance my Westlife interview, how mad is Gordon Brown entitled to get when someone’s cock-up makes it even harder for him to run the country?

It seems to me he’s a rough-hewn, passionate Scotsman who really cares about the job. People respect Sir Alex Ferguson and Gordon Ramsay for that, so why not the PM? Personally, I’ve been more impressed by these tales of the volcanic Brown than I was by his teeth-and-tears performance on the Piers Morgan show. I prefer him as the god of thunder.

I did a bit of bullying at school. I wasn’t big enough for the physical stuff. Instead, I provided a sort of mocking Greek chorus for the bullies as they fell upon their prey. I wasn’t quite part of the bully gang — more of an artist-in-residence. Now I realise that my verbal attack was at least as bad as the physical bullying. Derisive words can really rip the self-respect and confidence out of someone.

So any journalists, politicians or, indeed, comedians who condemn Mr Brown for his supposed bullying should consider how they’ve verbally bullied him. Has he not, despite his undeniable work ethic, been the butt of every joke? Has he not provided the weak and vulnerable target that every bully needs? Shouting, throwing newspapers and punching passenger seats is small fry compared with mounting a relentlessly scornful character assassination. Surely the latter constitutes bullying. If only there was some sort of helpline for Mr Brown to call


February 26, 2010