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22 February 2010

Gordon Brown has a dark side and a light side

There's nothing new in that.

By James Macintyre

I’ve been busy today working on a piece for the special issue of the New Statesman on the Conservatives out later this week, so have been observing but not commenting on the latest “revelations” to emerge about Gordon Brown’s “bullying”. These — as Mehdi Hasan predicted earlier, and John Rentoul, no natural Brown defender, echoed on Sky News today — appear to be backfiring, rather like the Sun’s attack last year on the Prime Minister’s handwriting.

The book that is being serialised in the Observer is clearly sexily written, and its author is praised by almost everyone in the Westminster village. Some of what he says is new; some is not. A number of things have surprised me about the coverage, however.

First, I was surprised the Observer based its entire relaunch around the book. Newspapers run the best story they have, especially on a relaunch day, and the (officially denied) claim that the Cabinet Secretary warned Brown several years ago over his treatment of his staff is not the “smoking gun” that many in Westminster expected.

It was surprising that there were no details of Brown allegedly thumping a member of staff, a story I had heard from two separate sources but failed to stand up two years ago and one that Brown clearly expected to come out, given his pre-emptive denial in the Independent on Sunday.

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But most of all, I am amazed that so many Labour figures — including cabinet ministers who are supposedly supportive of Brown — co-operated in the putting together of a book called The End of the Party, which was designed to portray Labour in disarray and make headlines prior to a crucial general election.

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