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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Both Labour and the Tories have decided the 2017 election was a victory

As Westminster heads for the beach, at least one party is on course to look very foolish.

For the second time in seven years, Westminster heads for the beach after an election that no one won.

Jeremy Corbyn went into the election looking for “brilliant defeat” and he got it – a triumphant advance for him and his party, and with it, the Labour leadership for however long he wants it. Now most of his party seems to have remembered the brilliance, and forgotten the defeat.

Fortunately or unfortunately, there is a thriving cottage industry among the right-wing commentariat that is very keen to remind us all that Labour lost the election. This is certainly true, but it's also true that the party turned around a catastrophic picture as far as both the polls and local elections were concerned, and emerged with an electoral map that, unlike the grim vista Corbyn inherited from Ed Miliband, suggests that defeat for the Conservatives might be accomplished in ten months not ten years. So, yes, not a defeat of the Tories. But still a result with something to cheer for Labour.

The version of history being spun by the leader's office: that the 40 per cent of the vote Corbyn got in 2017 is part of the general unravelling of the English-speaking establishment that we saw with the votes for Donald Trump and Brexit, and that the tide of history is moving their way, isn't implausible. Certainly, I'm yet to meet anyone at Westminster willing to bet large sums of money that Corbyn won't end up in Downing Street these days.

Team Corbyn at least have something resembling a narrative. On the Conservative side, what looks to be happening now is that a large chunk of the right has told itself what went wrong is that they didn't talk about austerity enough, and that a bunch of 30- and 40-somethings decided to vote Labour because of something Corbyn said about tuition fee debt in the NME.

It's true that the new operation at Downing Street has proved that it can successfully drive the story in the right-wing press. Labour's flat-footed response to the non-story did expose vulnerabilities in the opposition's set-up. But while showing they can launch a rocket of any kind is a big step up for the post-Cameron Conservatives, it should worry that party that they don't seem to have noticed that this one didn't have a ballistic payload attached. Labour may be better prepared next time.

The contrast with 2010 is marked. As one minister pointed out to me recently, after that contest, centre-right think tanks bustled with activity and ideas. Conservative Party conference was full of suggestions about what they'd do if they won a majority. An extensive post-mortem into “what went wrong” – after an election in which the Tories gained 97 seats in one night, a post-war record for that party – occurred, both publicly and privately.

It might be that I'm not as fashionable as I was two years ago, but I was invited on to more panels discussing how the Tories could do better after the 2015 election, a contest they won, than I have in 2017, after an election they lost. Policy Exchange, that old generator of Cameron-era ideas, seems to be focused on foreign policy nowadays. As for the rest of the right-wing think tanks, they are almost entirely devoted to position papers telling us all that Brexit is going brilliantly.

It's not entirely fair to say that after 2010, the Conservatives recognised they'd lost and tried to fix it, while Labour decided the 2010 election had been a type of victory and tried to re-run it in 2015, but there is more than a grain of truth in that statement. At the moment, it looks as if both parties have decided that the 2017 election was a victory and that “once more, with feeling” is all they need to get over the line next time. At least one side is on course to look very foolish. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.