Monthly Archives: February 2010

Jim Pickard

Gordon Brown cracked a rather amusing joke during the Welsh Labour spring conference this afternoon. I can’t imagine he wrote it, of course, but here it goes.

“It has been a strange week,” he mused. “The only thing I haven’t been accused of recently is killing Archie Mitchell in Eastenders. For the press here: I promise you, I didn’t even lay a finger on him.” 

Hats off to Robert Popper, the man behind the Tangerinegate prank. This blog was the first to report the story of Gordon Brown hurling fruit into a lamination machine. But I’m delighted to say that Jim spotted it was a dubious yarn after hearing it on LBC.

We are nevertheless pleased to have brought it to public attention, not least because of the hilarious Hong Kong tangerine animation that followed. We’re also relieved that no tangerines were hurt in the making of this spoof. 

Jim Pickard

We’ve examined Briton’s greatest top 10 historical characters – as voted for by the British public – and no fewer than six were bullies, by our calculations. Gordon Brown can rest assured.

Meanwhile here are some letters we stumbled upon today: Can’t vouch for their authenticity.

To the National Bullying Helpline.

Dear Mrs Pratt,

I trust I can count on your discretion. I need your assistance because I am being bullied left, right and centre by powerful people.

Alistair Darling described me as “the forces of hell.” The Daily Telegraph called me “Mad Dog and McPoison”. Stephen Byers said I was “aggressive and hostile” while one blogger, Devil’s Kitchen, called me a “loathsome, lying…poisonous little moron.”

I feel really put upon. I’ve even had it in the neck from Boris Johnson, mayor of London, who called me the “slug on the milk bottle” and a “lately exploded pustule.”

I hope you can help me in my hour of need.

sincerely

Damian McBride

 

The bullygate animators are back. This time Gordon the fighting CGI puppet is hurling a tangerine into a lamination machine (a dubious tale brought to you by Jim), smashing his computer screen with a keyboard (courtesy of Iain Dale) and flinging his mobile phone (Jim again). Jeremy Heywood, the top Downing Street civil servant, and a copy of the Financial Times also make a brief appearance. 

Jim Pickard

Amid political uncertainty about the future of Crossrail – would either Labour or the Tories delay or axe the project? – news of job cuts at the group may not be the most positive sign.

This morning I heard about redundancies across the piste at Crossrail in recent days. A spokesman has now confirmed that Rob Holden, chief executive, has asked all team leaders to examine the potential for job cuts. “Directors are being asked to look at their teams going forward…to continue to offer value for money,” he said. 

Gordon Brown emerged pretty much unscathed from PMQs, especially considering Alistair Darling’s terrifically unhelpful interview about the “forces of hell”.

Brown insisted he “never instructed” anyone to brief against his chancellor after Darling warned in 2008 that the world faced the worst recession for 60 years.

This raises an obvious question: did he do anything to stop the anti-Darling briefings? It is worth looking over the reports at that time as a reminder of how pointed the attacks were.

The implication wasn’t just that Brown was unhappy — it was that Brown was preparing to sack his Darling and replace him with Ed Balls. This surely should have prompted Brown to take action and make clear these briefings were false? No?

Anyway, the key piece seems to have been in the Mail on Sunday the day after the interview. “A furious Mr Brown phoned Mr Darling and ordered him to eat his words on TV, while allies of the Prime Minister said, Mr Darling should be sacked and his job given to Schools Secretary Ed Balls,” the piece stated. Here are the most forthright supporting quotes, which are notably from MPs, not aides:

One MP who is close to the Prime Minister said: ‘Alistair has got to go and his job must be given to Ed Balls. Ed is the cleverest person in the Cabinet and has the full confidence of the Prime Minister.

‘If anyone can get us out of this hole, Ed can. Alistair Darling’s comments are self-indulgent rubbish.’

A veteran Labour backbencher said: ‘This is obviously a farewell interview by Alistair. Everybody wants him to go. You may get away with one uncharismatic Scot at the top of the Government, but not two. It’s like a “who smiles first” contest.’

 

Jim Pickard

The latest Electoral Commission figures are out for party donations and prove that the Tories will have much greater fire-power in the coming general election.

The Conservatives raised £10.5m in the three months to the end of December. Labour attracted just £5m. The Lib Dems were left trailing with barely more than £1m.

Labour are hoping to use this to their advantage by depicting themselves as the underdogs, as David Blunkett told the FT on Monday; a hard act to pull off after 13 years in power.

Will let you know later if more juicy facts emerge from the more detailed numbers.

(UPDATE: One interesting fact to emerge today is that Andrew Charalambous, the Tory candidate standing in Edmonton, gave £142,319 to his own campaign for advertising, printing and other campaigning…….)

Here is the list of all donors giving more than £200,000. Sorry for the glitch on Sir Nigel Doughty (top right) – he is the biggest giver of all in the period. 

See the FT’s interactive guide to the shadow cabinet and key Conservative party advisers, including details of who the major players listen to and where the connections lie. The graphic includes profiles written by your very own Westminster blogging team. Visit www.ft.com/tories

Never mind the allegations about Gordon Brown — he is a mouse compared with Lyndon Johnson, the king of political bullies. If you’ve not read it, I urge you to pick up Robert Caro’s Master of the Senate, surely the best political biography ever written.

In one chapter, Caro describes LBJ interviewing staff while perched on the toilet, urinating in front of secretaries and occasionally unzipping “Jumbo” in front of his senate colleagues and hollering “have you ever seen anything as big as this?”

Brown himself hailed the book as “quite breathtaking”. I wanted to quote some Caro passages on LBJs abuse of junior staff, but sadly I’ve misplaced my copy at home. Instead I’ve harvested some choice extracts from the web, mainly relating to how he used to manhandle his fellow senators into submission. 

Jim Pickard

Credit to Dizzy Thinks for spotting this one:

By Sue Cameron, FT columnist. Sue is a former presenter of BBC2’s Newsnight, of Channel Four News and of the ITN Parliament Programme.

The row over bullying at Number 10 is a terrific watch for onlookers but it is NOT news.

It was back in November 2007 in the FT’s Notebook that I broke the story of how moody Gordon Brown had been “tearing strips ” off the Number 10 garden girls and had then turfed one of them off her chair and started typing himself. 

The ever insightful Bagehot at the Economist has been speaking to Gordon Brown about his alleged “pep talk” from Sir Gus O’Donnell. Here’s the prime minister’s response:

“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.”