Page last updated at 21:22 GMT, Monday, 22 February 2010

Gordon Brown 'not warned over bullying manner'

Andrew Rawnsley: There are good sides and not so good sides to the PM

Britain's top civil servant has said he did not confront Gordon Brown about "acting in a bullying or intimidatory manner" towards Downing Street staff.

Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell also said there was no need for an inquiry following newspaper stories about the PM's treatment of colleagues.

The Tories and Lib Dems have called for the situation to be cleared up.

Mr Brown said the story was "completely wrong" and that he had received no "private message" from Sir Gus.

In an interview with The Economist magazine, Mr Brown said: "The cabinet secretary has made it clear that he's had no inquiries, there's been no reprimand, there's been no private message to me... (the) story is completely wrong."

The row began with a story in the Observer, based on a book by journalist Andrew Rawnsley, detailing incidents in which Mr Brown allegedly grabbed staff by the lapels, shoved them aside and shouted at them.

'Unseemly mess'

Mr Rawnsley claimed Sir Gus had been so concerned about the situation in Downing Street that he had had a private word with the prime minister about his behaviour.

But a Downing Street spokesman said: "The cabinet secretary would like to make clear that he has never raised concerns with the prime minister about him acting in a bullying or intimidatory manner in relation to Number 10 staff, let alone giving him any sort of verbal warning."

Nick Robinson

Interestingly, after a relentless day in which all sides have fought to secure a political advantage, both the prime minister's friends and his enemies say they want the same thing - for voters to see the real Gordon Brown

Sir Gus did not feel there was any need for an inquiry into the allegations in Mr Rawnsley's book, the spokesman added.

However, Mr Rawnsley told the BBC he stood by his story, adding: "This is the third different statement Downing Street has put out in the last 48 hours and I note with interest that they still don't deny that a conversation took place between the prime minister and the cabinet secretary about the prime minister's behaviour."

He also said: "You will note that their careful choice of words in their latest statement still doesn't preclude the cabinet secretary going to the prime minister and warning him about his behaviour."

Conservative leader David Cameron described the situation 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'

On Sunday, the National Bullying Helpline's chief executive, Christine Pratt, contacted the BBC to say a small number of people who had worked at Number 10 had contacted the charity, but insisted they had "absolutely not" accused Mr Brown personally of bullying.

But she has been criticised for revealing the information, with three of the charity's patrons - including Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe - resigning, saying she had breached the alleged complainants' confidentiality. Mrs Pratt has said she did not name anyone or reveal details.

John Prescott defends Gordon Brown's personality

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, assuming she had "some fuel to throw on this fire".

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.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said the allegations from the National Bullying Helpline were "very serious" and had to be "cleared up by No 10".

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The Scotsman Sarah Brown stands by her man as 'prat' jibes fly in bullying row - 6 hrs ago
China Post Brown fights back as bullying row escalates - 16 hrs ago
WA Hotheaded? Yes. Bully? No - 16 hrs ago
The Sun Sarah: My Gordon is a decent man - 19 hrs ago
Observer Brown 'very upset' about bullying claims - 21 hrs ago

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