Page last updated at 13:45 GMT, Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Brown 'very upset' by bully claims, says Ed Balls

Gordon Brown
Mr Brown has been upset by the claims, said Ed Balls

Gordon Brown has been "very upset" by allegations about his behaviour towards staff, his ally Ed Balls told the BBC.

The schools secretary said it had affected the PM personally because there was "no truth" in the claims.

And Sarah Brown told GMTV her husband was "a strong, hard working decent man and he isn't anything else".

It follows claims that cabinet secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell had a stern "pep talk" with the PM after his temper frightened Downing Street staff.

The row began with the publication of journalist Andrew Rawnsley's book, which detailed incidents where it is alleged Mr Brown grabbed staff by the lapels, shoved them aside and shouted at them.

Cleared up

Then on Sunday the head of the National Bullying Helpline, Christine Pratt, said the charity had received calls from the prime minister's office - although she said they were not about Mr Brown personally.

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


But on Monday, Sir Gus said there was no need for an inquiry and 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."

Mr Brown has also said the story was "completely wrong".

Mr Balls told BBC Radio 4's Today programme Mr Rawnsley's book had been incorrect on every allegation and said he had known Mr Brown for years and "at no point has it ever occurred to me that Gordon Brown is, or would ever be, a bully".

"It is something which personally he feels very upset about because he knows there is no truth to these allegations," said Mr Balls.

"I don't think it damages him, it hurts him personally."

He said Mr Brown had "a strength of character and drive" adding: "That's what you want in a prime minister, you want people who are tough and can drive things forward."

'Fire in belly'

His comments were echoed by Lord Sugar, star of The Apprentice and the government's enterprise champion, who told GMTV: "Do you want some docile type of person who is just not going to have any spirit about them or do you want someone who has got a bit of fire in their belly, who will react, who will get a bit emotional sometimes?

"That is not bullying as far as I am concerned."

And Mrs Brown told GMTV "what you see is what you get" with her husband adding: "Gordon's the man that I know and the man that I love.

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
Andrew Rawnsley

"People have heard me talk about him and they probably know everything that I would have to say about him. I know him as a strong, hard working decent man and he isn't anything else.

Mr Rawnsley is sticking by his book, saying his source for the claim that Sir Gus had been moved to speak to the prime minister about his behaviour towards Downing Street staff was "24 carat".

He said the statement issued on Monday by Sir Gus had been a "careful choice of words" which "still doesn't preclude the cabinet secretary going to the prime minister and warning him about his behaviour".

Charity row

Lord Mandelson has suggested that the separate claims made by the National Bullying Helpline were part of a "political operation" directed by the Conservatives.

The Conservatives accused him of trying to "smear" the charity's chief executive, Mrs Pratt.

The charity trustees are meeting on Tuesday to discuss the situation.

Mrs Pratt was criticised by another bullying charity and some of her own patrons - including the Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe - resigned saying she had breached the confidentiality of callers.

Mrs Pratt has said she did not name anyone or reveal details and has said she was "not politically motivated".

But immigration minister Phil Woolas told LBC radio: "It's a tough business, politics. It is 18, 20 hours a day that people like the prime minister work.

"I think this attack on him by this prat of a woman down in - where's she from, Swindon? - I think that's backfiring on her." He said Mr Brown was a "very decent man".

The BBC's chief political correspondent Laura Kuenssberg said the apparently personal tone of Mr Woolas's comments were likely to undermine government efforts to draw a line under the issue.

In a separate interview, former prime minister Tony Blair - whom Mr Brown has admitted having fierce battles with during his time as chancellor - was asked on the BBC World Service's World Today programme about the way prime ministers treated their staff.

Mr Blair replied: "Well I think I know what you're referring to and I honestly have absolutely nothing to say about that at all."

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