Page last updated at 17:55 GMT, Monday, 22 February 2010

Cameron calls for inquiry into No 10 bullying claims

David Cameron: "Another unseemly mess"

Conservative leader David Cameron has called for an inquiry into allegations of bullying in Downing Street.

He said he was sure Number 10 and the civil service would want to "get to the bottom" of the "serious matters".

The comments follow claims about Gordon Brown's temper and, separately, by a bullying charity about No 10's culture.

But civil service chief Sir Gus O'Donnell says there is no need for an inquiry and Lord Mandelson says claims are part of a "political operation".

Liberal Democrats leader Nick Clegg has also said the allegations need to be "cleared up".

'Demanding'

The row began with a story in the Observer - based on a book by journalist Andrew Rawnsley - alleging that Sir Gus had been so concerned about Gordon Brown's behaviour towards staff he had a private word with the prime minister about it.

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Nick Robinson

Peter Mandelson is now claiming that there is a 'political operation' to undermine the prime minister. He has yet to say what he means by that or to provide any proof of it.

Business Secretary Lord Mandelson said on Sunday that Mr Brown was "demanding" but "doesn't bully people".

But the National Bullying Helpline's chief executive, Christine Pratt, contacted the BBC to say a flat denial sent out the wrong message and she would expect Downing Street to follow "due process" and look into complaints.

She said a small number of people who had worked at No 10 had contacted the charity, but insisted they had "absolutely not" accused Mr Brown personally of bullying.

Two of the charity's patrons, Cary Cooper and TV presenter Sarah Cawood, have resigned in protest.

In a statement, Ms Cawood said that "in light of the recent events where confidential phone calls were made public, I feel it is no longer a campaign with which I would like my name to be associated".

Conservative leader Mr Cameron described the whole bullying story as an "unseemly mess" and said: "I'm sure that Number 10 Downing Street and the civil service in some way will want to have some sort of inquiry to get to the bottom of what has happened here.

"One way for that to happen is for Sir Philip Mawer, who is in charge of policing the ministerial code, to be asked to look into this and to find out what has been happening and get to the bottom of it."

'Slight odour'

Mr Clegg also said the allegations from the National Bullying Helpline were "very serious" and had to be "cleared up by Number 10".

The prime minister's official spokesman said on Monday afternoon that Sir Gus wanted to make it clear he had never raised concerns with the prime minister about him "acting in a bullying or intimidatory manner in relation to No 10 staff, let alone giving him any sort of verbal warning".

He added that the cabinet secretary's view was there was no need for an inquiry.

Lord Mandelson: "We've got better things to do in our lives"

Lord Mandelson said: "This whole affair is starting to acquire a slight odour. I assumed that this was a storm in a teacup manufactured by somebody who wanted to get some good headlines for his book.

"It now looks like more of a political operation that's under way, directed at the prime minister personally."

Lord Mandelson claimed Conservative press officers had "guided" journalists towards Mrs Pratt's charity and said people making allegations had no evidence and needed to "put up or shut up".

But the Conservatives said Downing Street was trying to "smear the messenger as they have done so many times before" and denied Tory press officers had guided Mrs Pratt, who has said her charity is "non-political".

Jeremy Heywood, Mr Brown's principal private secretary, has sent a memo insisting there is no culture of bullying and intimidation at Number 10 but reminding staff of the official civil service procedures for dealing with harassment or bullying.



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SEE ALSO
PM staff 'called bully helpline'
21 Feb 10 |  UK Politics
Brown not a bully, says Mandelson
21 Feb 10 |  UK Politics
Daily View: Brown bullying claims
22 Feb 10 |  UK Politics

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