Gordon Brown v the National Bullying Helpline

Is Christine Pratt for real?

The bullying charities seem to be, er, bullying each other. Bullying UK has called on Christine Pratt, the boss (and founder) of the National Bullying Helpline, to resign. When will Beatbullying and BulliesOut join in on this latest confected controversy?

Actually, (bad) jokes aside, I think Bullying UK is right. This woman Pratt (don't worry, I won't call her a prat; that would be too easy) has no credibility left. How on earth did she think she could reveal confidential information about callers to her helpline, on national television, and expect to get away with it?

One of her patrons, Professor Carey Cooper, has now resigned, saying that she "breached confidentiality", and another patron -- the Tory MP Ann Widdecombe -- has said that the charity should have stayed out of the row. Talking of the Tories, why does Pratt pretend that her numerous links to the Conservative Party don't matter? Is she barking?

Questions have been raised as to whether the NBH is even a functioning charity -- but this, as Adam Bienkov points out, didn't ring "alarm bells at the BBC" over the weekend, as they gave extensive coverage to her claims. Shame on them.

Hillary Clinton once referred to the "vast right-wing conspiracy" behind the attacks on her (philandering) husband. She had a point. So are we now seeing something similar vis-à-vis Brown? I referred to the right-wing echo chamber in a column not long ago and, looking at the Sun's headline today ("The Prime Monster"), I can't help but think I was spot on.

But could this all backfire on the PM's critics, in the style of the Sun/Jacqui Janes/letter-writing "row" back in November? I suspect it might. And as I said on LBC yesterday, and as Jackie Ashley writes in the Guardian today, the idea that anyone out there will change their vote because of Andrew Rawnsley's gossipy book is nonsense.

The Rawnsley allegations about Brown remain exactly that -- allegations. The Cabinet Office has denied that the Cabinet Secretary called for an investigation of the PM's treatment of his staff, and former secretaries like Fiona Gordon have rejected the claims of bullying and mobile-phone-throwing inside No 10.

Meanwhile, one bullying case (from 2008) has been highlighted and proven at a London employment tribunal in recent months -- though largely ignored by the press. The bully? Andy Coulson, the then editor of the News of the World and now chief spinner for the Tory leader, David Cameron.

Downing Street secretaries, beware -- he's heading in your direction!

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Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

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What do Labour's lost voters make of the Labour leadership candidates?

What does Newsnight's focus group make of the Labour leadership candidates?

Tonight on Newsnight, an IpsosMori focus group of former Labour voters talks about the four Labour leadership candidates. What did they make of the four candidates?

On Andy Burnham:

“He’s the old guard, with Yvette Cooper”

“It’s the same message they were trying to portray right up to the election”​

“I thought that he acknowledged the fact that they didn’t say sorry during the time of the election, and how can you expect people to vote for you when you’re not actually acknowledging that you were part of the problem”​

“Strongish leader, and at least he’s acknowledging and saying let’s move on from here as opposed to wishy washy”

“I was surprised how long he’d been in politics if he was talking about Tony Blair years – he doesn’t look old enough”

On Jeremy Corbyn:

"“He’s the older guy with the grey hair who’s got all the policies straight out of the sixties and is a bit of a hippy as well is what he comes across as” 

“I agree with most of what he said, I must admit, but I don’t think as a country we can afford his principles”

“He was just going to be the opposite of Conservatives, but there might be policies on the Conservative side that, y’know, might be good policies”

“I’ve heard in the paper he’s the favourite to win the Labour leadership. Well, if that was him, then I won’t be voting for Labour, put it that way”

“I think he’s a very good politician but he’s unelectable as a Prime Minister”

On Yvette Cooper

“She sounds quite positive doesn’t she – for families and their everyday issues”

“Bedroom tax, working tax credits, mainly mum things as well”

“We had Margaret Thatcher obviously years ago, and then I’ve always thought about it being a man, I wanted a man, thinking they were stronger…  she was very strong and decisive as well”

“She was very clear – more so than the other guy [Burnham]”

“I think she’s trying to play down her economics background to sort of distance herself from her husband… I think she’s dumbing herself down”

On Liz Kendall

“None of it came from the heart”

“She just sounds like someone’s told her to say something, it’s not coming from the heart, she needs passion”

“Rather than saying what she’s going to do, she’s attacking”

“She reminded me of a headteacher when she was standing there, and she was quite boring. She just didn’t seem to have any sort of personality, and you can’t imagine her being a leader of a party”

“With Liz Kendall and Andy Burnham there’s a lot of rhetoric but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of direction behind what they’re saying. There seems to be a lot of words but no action.”

And, finally, a piece of advice for all four candidates, should they win the leadership election:

“Get down on your hands and knees and start praying”

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.