Politics Summary: Monday, February 22nd

Allegations of bullying in No 10, an end in sight for AIDS, more strikes at BA, more allegations of torture against MI5 and the rush to beat the "super tax".

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Lord Mandelson has leapt to the prime minister’s aid following damaging revelations in Andrew Rawnsley’s new book, serialised in The Observer. Speaking on yesterday’s Andrew Marr Show, the business secretary insisted that, although he could be “angry and demanding” he was no bully, reports the Mirror. Mandelson said: “There is a degree of impatience about the man but what would you like? Some sort of shrinking violet at the helm of the Government when we are going through such stormy waters?” When asked if he had been attacked or hit, he answered: “I took my medicine like a man.” Following fresh allegations that No 10 staff had called a bullying helpline, there were demands for evidence to be provided to back up the claims, Labour MP Anne Snelgrove telling the Mirror: “I have had some real swines as bosses and Gordon is one of the nicest people I’ve worked for.” Cabinet colleagues joined in the condemnation of Rawnsley’s book, adds The Guardian, with home secretary Alan Johnson, speaking on the Politics Show, saying: “I have got no knowledge of him effing and blinding at officials.”

The Independent leads on the news that AIDS could be eradicated “within 40 years”. According to experts at the South African Centre for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis, using anti-rerotroviral drugs to stop transmission rather than just save lives could “stop HIV transmission and halve Aids-related TB within 10 years” – and is a better way to do this rather than waiting for the development of a vaccine or relying on people changing their lifestyles. The centre’s Dr Brian Williams explained that: “Each person with HIV infects, on average, one person every one or two years. Since people with HIV, and without treatment, live for an average of 10 years after infection, each person with HIV infects about five to 10 people … Treating people with ART within about one year of becoming infected would reduce transmission by about 10 times. Each person with HIV would infect, on average, less than one other person and the epidemic would die out.” With so much being spent on treating people with related diseasesa, and the economic loss to society of so many young people dying, it would also be a massive cost saving, said Dr Williams.

The Times reports that a fresh round of strikes at British Airways are likely following the failure of “last-ditch talks” at the weekend. Union officials are confident of another “yes” vote in the strike ballot, with industrial action beginning as early as next week, with Check-in staff, ground crew and even some pilots being trained to fill the gap left by BA cabin crew. According to an online poll of union members, “more than two-thirds of members want a strike lasting at least ten days,” adds The Guardian. Unite’s leadership, however, “has openly questioned the strategic wisdom of staging a lengthy walkout,” says The Guardian, joint general secretary Derek Simpson admitting that a 12-day walkout was “probably over the top”.

The Telegraph, meanwhile, reports that MI5 is facing “five more torture investigations”, which threaten to “paralyse” the security services. The allegations relate to the cases of five British men unlawfully detained and tortured in Pakistan “with the complicity of MI5”. One of the cases alleges that a man was “abducted off the street and tortured” in Karachi, with the other four all involving suspects “formally accused or convicted of involvement in terrorism”. Jonathan Evans, the director-general of MI5, insisted his officers would never take part in such actions, telling the Telegraph: “We in the UK agencies did not practise mistreatment or torture then and do not do so now, nor do we collude in torture or encourage others to torture on our behalf.”

And the Financial Times reports a “last-minute rush” to beat the 50p super-tax deadline. Bonus payments have been accelerated, dividends brought forward, compensation plans restructured and other payments deferred. The Association of British Insurers, however, have warned boards against protecting directors from tax rises “if investors have to foot the bill”, saying such schemes “risk causing damage to the reputation of the company and shareholders”. The FT adds that some of the more aggressive schemes are likely to expose companies to criticism “from investors and the tax authority”.

• US magazine Dissent hosts “Obama – what’s gone wrong?” on March 24 at 6.30pm for a high profile panel debate. Free. To RSVP email events@mishcon.com

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40 Responses to “Politics Summary: Monday, February 22nd”

  1. HouseOfTwitsLab

    RT @leftfootfwd Mandelson: Brown is not a bully:- Politics Summary: Monday, February 22nd: http://is.gd/8UVKW

  2. House Of Twits

    RT @leftfootfwd Mandelson: Brown is not a bully:- Politics Summary: Monday, February 22nd: http://is.gd/8UVKW

  3. Owain Gardner

    RT @HouseOfTwitsLab: RT @leftfootfwd Mandelson: Brown is not a bully:- Politics Summary: Monday, February 22nd: http://is.gd/8UVKW

  4. Anon E Mouse

    Why no mention of the front pages / headlines from The Times, The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Express, The Mail, Metro which all claim Brown is a bully?

    Is LFF now trying to claim that all the reporters over the years are wrong about Browns behaviour and that they care more about the Prime Minister than a lowly secretary? The following is from Hansard – let me guess LFF will start claiming that’s wrong next:

    (From Dizzy) – In May 2007 – 5 complaints:

    “John Healey: In the last 12 months fewer than five grievances have been raised and investigated. No complaints of bullying or of sexual harassment have been upheld. As the number of complaints of bullying and of sexual harassment was fewer than five, the exact number cannot be disclosed on grounds of confidentiality.”

    February 2008 – (The same 5 complaints)

    “Mr. Watson: The Prime Minister’s Office forms an integral part of the Cabinet Office. In order to protect the confidentiality and privacy of individuals, it is standard Government practice not to publish records relating to five or less individuals.”

    March 2009 – (the same 5 complaints)

    “Mr. Watson: It is not the policy of the Cabinet Office to release personal data relating to individual staff. I can confirm that in the period specified, there were fewer than five cases in the Department where staff were disciplined for bullying and harassment of colleagues. It would not be appropriate to provide a further breakdown.”

    So if Labour do not have to list the complaints then why do the helpline?

    And how long before we start smearing the character of the woman who runs it. It’s only time…

  5. Shamik Das

    Anon, once again you are confusing the questioning of people’s motives and agendas with “smearing the character” of these individuals.

    Your visceral hatred of the Labour PM has made you blind to the realities.

  6. Billy Blofeld

    It is totally disgusting that Brown’s henchmen are now trying to smear an anti-bullying charity.

    Do they have now shame? Does nobody in the Labour party have any conscience at all?

    After the Dr David Kelly episode, I unfortunately have no faith that any senior figure in Labour is capable of standing up and stopping the smearing of an anti-bullying charity.

    Progressives?!!!!!!!!! That is a laugh.

  7. Anon E Mouse

    Shamik – As you are fully aware I have no hatred of the Labour Party as I have made clear to you on several occasions – please do not make that false accusation about me again. You have already tried to imply that I am racist in another post as well and I do not think that is fair.

    I do not make false accusations about you Shamik – please be polite.

    You are also aware that I have a dislike of Gordon Brown and his bully boy tactics – I did not need this woman to come out about calls to the national helpline.

    The reason the woman came out was after she, like myself, watched Mandleson telling lies on Andrew Marr.

    Hansard shows she is right or are you now claiming that the recorders at the House Of Commons are wrong Shamik and that it’s some giant conspiracy against Gordon Brown?

    Why don’t you address the issue Shamik about the bullying of the “little people” as I’m sure you see them…

  8. Shamik Das

    Again, you’re stating these allegations as fact. And why has no one come out on the record to say any of this?

  9. Anon E Mouse

    Shamik – Read what Hansard said – why do you think all these people over all these years would lie about this type of thing? (Not journalists, the individuals that were badly treated)

    Why would someone surround himself with unpleasant people like McBride and Co operating from his own office if he wasn’t of the same ilk?

    Why would people like Peter Watt be dumped on when they got rumbled?

    Finally why aren’t they going to court if it isn’t true – if I said something untrue about you Shamik you would – so would I…

  10. Liz McShane

    Anon – re your comment/question…:

    ..”And how long before we start smearing the character of the woman who runs it. It’s only time…”
    I believe that she might have smeared herself on R4 this am in her interview with John Humphries

  11. Anon E Mouse

    Liz – Why does no one care about the people who have alleged they were bullied?

    I have voted Labour my whole life because it is supposed to be there to help weaker people in our country who can’t help themselves – this is not doing that.

    Hansard shows five complaints on the record from the government – that’s it really. Why would the government admit to something that isn’t true?

    The fact is people are not addressing the issue – workplace bullying – by starting the smear machine.

    Andrew Gilligan? David Kelly? Professor Nutt? Abrahams? Peter Watt? Tony Blair? David Miliband?

    Address the issue Liz – workplace bullying is wrong. End of….

  12. Shamik Das

    Yes, workplace bullying is wrong, but where is the evidence to prove Rawnsley’s allegations? Why is no one prepared to go on the record? And why has the woman from the anti-bullying charity not only breached confidentiality – assuming any calls were ever made – but been in conctact with the Tories?

    These are all legitimate questions she needs to answer. The idea that putting someone under scrutiny is akin to smearing them is insane.

    She needs to come up with some answers…

  13. Anon E Mouse

    Shamik – Why won’t the government admit what’s in Hansard? Why won’t you Shamik?

    THEY have admitted, on the floor of the commons that 5 complaints were made – it was the government that is using the old “confidentially” waffle to try to bury the story. It this a “good day to bury bad news” Shamik?

    I remember this when the expenses scandal broke about complaints from MP’s that the Telegraph was breaching confidentially. Good.

    LFF is attempting to smear the messenger instead of addressing the issue – and if you listened to Today this morning you will realise the BBC have the emails from the complainants…

    By saying “assuming any calls were ever made” there is a tacit suggestion she is lying and I find that deeply offensive and does it mean you think that the highest office in our land is not subject to the very laws this government brought in…

  14. Anon E Mouse

    Liz – Just because three times disgraced, dishonest and unelected can’t be questioned member of the cabinet, Lord Mandelson says Brown is innocent doesn’t make it so….

  15. Shamik Das

    You were saying…




    The National Bullying Helpline and the delightful Ms Pratt have discredited themselves.

    As I said, legitimate questioning of people’s backgrounds and motives are not smears but an attempt to uncover the truth.

    These are the facts about Pratt and her organisation. Accept them and move on.

  16. Liz McShane

    Anon – I hate bullying in the workplace and have suffered it myself, but have a read of this…:


  17. Anon E Mouse

    Shamik – You are correcting me on something I haven’t said – a bit like Gordon Brown saying “I didn’t hit anyone” after no one had said that he had.

    I don’t care what you say about one individual – if I chose to defend her how could I – I know nothing about her nor do I care. She runs a charity, so what? (It’s what she has said that’s important)

    But our leader I do care about and if the accusations of bullying are not true why not take Rawnsley to court?

    And I ask again Shamik. If the allegations are not true why are they being discussed, by the government in the House Of Commons on three occasions?

    Why would Parliamentary time be wasted on nothing?


  18. Anon E Mouse

    Liz – I am not attempting to defend a woman I know nothing about but her story needs to be investigated and if you have suffered workplace bullying yourself then I find your reaction a strange one…

  19. Liz McShane

    I am not condoning it or have ‘Stockholm’ syndrome….the fact that other anti bullying groups have criticised her, one of patrons has resigned, Esther Rantzen has just done the same…. Ms Pratt doesn’t seem to know much about the no of complaints actually made – whether it’s 2 or 27.

    I can well imagine GB can be a grumpy old sod, and his famous dour, Scottish presbyterian upbringing probably makes him more sullen than a ‘party animal’ type.

    I don’t think flinging papers on the floor etc constitutes a bully – but yes have an inquiry just hope it doesn’t distract him from the larger matters in hand ie the economy!

  20. Shamik Das

    Well, there was an implicit defence of her by suggesting we should take her claims at face value, accept them as fact and not look into her background or motives, describing as “smears” attempts to hold her to account.

    Here’s a reminder of Pratt’s past:

    A Ms C Pratt allegedly –

    “thrust her face into his and screamed “Communicate!” very loudly and directly into his ear. Mr Roberts found this very painful and was profoundly shocked by her conduct.”


    There’s more, much, much more on the NBH here:

    This story is collapsing faster than a deck of cards…

  21. Anon E Mouse

    Shamik – (Again) I don’t care about this woman – apart from the fact she may be smeared and the real issue becomes secondary…

    I care about Hansard. I ask again Shamik. It is in the public record, three times from the government that five complaints were made.

    This was recorded on the floor of the House of Commons (Are you deliberately not getting that Shamik?) in 2007, 2008 and 2009. The last government statement went: “Mr. Watson: It is not the policy of the Cabinet Office to release personal data relating to individual staff. I can confirm that in the period specified, there were fewer than five cases in the Department where staff were disciplined for bullying and harassment of colleagues. It would not be appropriate to provide a further breakdown.”

    Why do you care more about this PM than potential victims in the workplace?

    Of course I’m sure you’ll welcome David Cameron’s calls for an enquiry?

  22. Anon E Mouse

    Liz – Glad you agree with having the enquiry as I do.

    I don’t think it will affect Mr Brown either – after all he has called for masses of enquiries already…57 was it?

    He’ll be OK then we can get to the bottom of this whole sorry saga.

    That’s it I’m outta this thread….

  23. Shamik Das

    It looks like we’re going round in circles here!

    This woman, who you seem determined not to condemn, has not in any way been smeared. All that has been published about her are the facts. These are not secondary concerns but go to the very heart of her motives and call into question the very foundations of her attack.

  24. Anon E Mouse

    Shamik – You and I going around in circles wouldn’t be the first time.

    The woman’s motives, as she explained on the BBC was after seeing Mandelson lying on Andrew Marr she felt she had to speak out – but I don’t care about her or har Quango organisation – not interested.

    The story is not her but the bullying at No 10.

    Are you saying there were no complaints from junior members of staff about the about how they felt treated / bullied whatever at Downing St?

    If you are saying there was no bullying at No. 10 you’re the only one Shamik – I agree one mans bullying is another’s rollicking but so far not a single minister has said that Brown acts in a calm and professional manner towards his staff and is Peter Watt lying?

  25. Noya Khobor » Blog Archive » Politics Summary: Monday, February 22nd | Left Foot Forward

    […] Continued here:  Politics Summary: Monday, February 22nd | Left Foot Forward […]

  26. Mr. Sensible

    Shamik Liz and Anon, sorry to spoil your debate.

    As for my own views of that story, without wishing to comment on the individual allegations, I must say I am slightly suspicious of Ms Prat’s actions.

    I read on the BBC News website that a patran has resigned over a “breach of privicy.”


    And someone suggests that she has David Cameron quotes on the front page of her website.

    Not only that, the Guardian said today that their patrans included Anne Widecom and a Conservative Councillor.

    Not Politically motivated? We’ll see about that.

    And Anon E Mouse, I think we should wait to see how true those allegations are first. Why are we not hearing from the people themselves, and why are we instead only hearing about this from a Newspaper commentator and a so called charity founder with a lot of questions to answer?

    I entirely agree bullying is wrong, but I think we should think before rushing in to viewing these allegations as fact.

  27. Oxford Kevin

    Mr Mouse,

    Your quotes from Hansard seem to suggest that the number of complaints was fewer than 5, exactly how many we don’t know from that, anywhere from 0 to 4 is my reading. I think you might be over egging the pudding a bit by stating that it was 5. Also there is no comment about whether these refer to Brown being the bully or some other member of staff.


  28. Anon E Mouse

    Mr. Sensible – Fair enough but since the staff have signed the Official Secrets Act how can they come forward?

    I signed that thing myself 15 years ago (I can’t travel to the Soviet Union for 25 years from signing!) and it is restrictive.

    My point is that there is no dispute as to the complaints – look at Hansard – just who was involved is the question.

    Why doesn’t the government come out and tell us – they know – apparently the individual took time off for stress over the matter.

    Finally look at the types of people Brown surrounds himself with McBride and Co have form. It may not be true but it’s no wonder people think it is.

    I agree on waiting as long as it isn’t another of Brown’s “kick it into the long grass” enquiry…

  29. Anon E Mouse

    Kevin – Agreed.

  30. Anon E Mouse

    Kevin – My reading is from more than zero though…

  31. Mr. Sensible

    Furthermore, I notice in the BBC article I linked to earlier that Bullying UK have criticized the all but identification of one of the “complainants”, or something to that effect.

  32. Mr. Sensible

    “apparently the individual took time off for stress over the matter.”

    How do we know?

    The only people who say that are the National Bullying Helpline who some of the suspician is about!

    And how do we know that the complaints talked about in Hansard, and this, are linked?

    And why has it taken until this book for all this to happen?

    I entirely agree bullying is wrong, but I am suspicious about this story.

  33. Mr. Sensible

    And, finally, Mcbride (bad though he is) is just 1, and he had to know.

    Any others?

  34. Anon E Mouse

    Mr.Sensible – We are told from a woman who runs a rival anti bullying charity (how many are there) who has called for this woman to resign.

    It was the culture under McBride and Co that was the problem. I dislike the way Tony Blair, Labour’s best electoral asset, was “briefed against” as it was described.

    The trouble here is it’s all suspicion and Chinese whispers except that it was mentioned in Hansard which shows there is something.

    Personally I think people are not thick skinned enough to take those high pressure positions but I just don’t like the idea of a party machine moving in to quash a story because it presents them in an unfavourable light.

    Same as Prescot and the poor way that secretary he had the fling with was moved on. It’s the little people who suffer and it just isn’t fair…

  35. Anon E Mouse

    Mr.Sensible – The woman didn’t even personally name Brown and went out of her way to explain that was the case…

  36. Kurt

    Politics Summary: Monday, February 22nd | Left Foot Forward http://bit.ly/9TeYKA

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  38. Mr. Sensible

    “Mr.Sensible – The woman didn’t even personally name Brown and went out of her way to explain that was the case…”

    No, but coming as it did the day after that story broke…

    BTW I now hear that Anne Widecome has gone.

  39. Mr. Sensible

    And Anon E Mouse, one would like to hope that in the volontary sector people from 1 organization would not have a go at the other for the sake of it.

    And given that these concerns are being expressed within Ms Prat’s own organization, I think she’s on thin ice.

  40. Anon E Mouse

    Mr Sensible – I agree. Confidential is confidential. I just worry as I said before about the little people and personally her organisation is doomed.

    No one with a problem of bullying would even consider going to her charity now!

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