Gordon Brown's not in The Thick of It, says Ian Hernon
The Gordon Brown bullying story shows no sign of dying down just yet.
In today's ECHO there is a brilliant piece by our parliamentary reporter Ian Hernon, who says when it comes to bullying Gordon Brown is just a novice.
He makes the comparison with The Thick of It using the Malcolm Tucker quote: "Relax, he has never hit anyone. Or at least anyone he has hit has never had the b***s to take it to a superior."
Tucker does of course go on to hit Glen (a civil servant) in the face, giving him a bloody nose, in the latest series.
Hernon's gets to his best towards the end of the piece, when he talks about some of the things he's seen.
Anyway here it is:
GORDON Brown may be many things - a grumpy, grisly curmudgeon among them - but he is no bully. Or if he is, he's merely a beginner.
And I should know having witnessed a lot of violent, ear-splitting bad behaviour in the Westminster and Whitehall cage-fighting pits.
Like many others, this week's hotly-denied "revelations" that the PM has terrorised No 10 staff led me to Google The Thick Of It, the BBC's comic take on what really goes on in the Government's spin and power machine.
In one episode a staff member complained that she felt intimidated by the boss.
Malcolm Tucker replied: "Relax, he has never hit anyone. Or at least anyone he has hit has never had the b***s to take it to a superior."
Tucker was played by Peter Capaldi who clearly based his performance on Alastair Campbell, former No 10 spin supremo to Tony Blair.
In my experience Alastair never bullied subordinates - although he loved tongue-lashing lobby correspondents like myself - but often bullied his boss.
His swearing at Blair was legendary, and Blair took it mildly because he knew that Alastair's anger at some prime ministerial snarl-up was reflected amongst the electorate.
Inside No 10 it was regarded as banter, an outlet for the passions aroused in a very close political partnership.
But staff who couldn't talk back were treated with courtesy and respect.
Things may be a bit different now in the hothouse atmosphere of an administration facing widespread scorn and disillusionment and heading for likely election defeat.
That means frayed tempers, internal divisions, points-scoring and blame-shifting.
But outright bullying ...I doubt it.
Having known the PM at arms length since he was elected a Scottish MP, I'm inclined to believe Lord Mandelson for once.
He defended Brown as a man of passion rather than a bully, a claim which so infuriated charity boss Christine Pratt that she claimed Downing Street staff had called the anti-bullying hotline over the last three years.
If she has the evidence, let her produce it, but the whole thing smacks of a vendetta.
Brown can be intimidating for a number of reasons: his position, his bulk, his beetle-browed glower and even his partial blindness ...he tends to get very close in face-to-face confrontations and that can seem over-powering.
He has a volcanic temper, a thin skin, a disregard for niceties of normal conversation.
He also has an understandable degree of paranoia. He thinks people are out to get him because a lot of them are.
But he can also display, often after a nudge from his wife, extraordinary warmth and consideration for those who work for and with him.
He may rant at his inner circle, he may forget birthdays, but he understands the importance of family life to hard-working staff.
Workplace bullying is, quite rightly, no longer tolerated in the civil service and other public bodies.
But there is always an issue of what crosses that line.
It is hot in any kitchen, none more so than No 10, and robust exchanges and high expectations do not constitute bullying.
And today's sensitivities should be compared with what happened in the past.
John Major, publicly a mild man, could be overexuberant at No 10 receptions. He once picked up a small female colleague of mine and dangled her over a balcony. Such behaviour would be deemed wildly inappropriate now.
Huyton MP Harold Wilson was loved by his staff but Ted Heath was foul-mouthed, a habit he picked up as a notoriously malevolent chief whip.
Mrs Thatcher was also well liked within No 10 for the way she did her own household chores in the flat above the shop, and for remembering birthdays.
But her treatment of those of her own ministers she despised as "wets" was often disgraceful.
Her Spitting Image lampoon was uncomfortably close to the truth. In one sketch her puppet chose roast beef at a Cabinet dinner. Waiter: "What about the vegetables?"
Answer: "They'' have the same as me."
The Commons whipping culture, the system of business management which keeps backbenchers and ministers in line, is responsible for behaviour which would be less understandable outside Westminster.
During the 1980s it was quite normal for verbal abuse to turn to violence. Punches were thrown between men and on one occasion a Scottish Tory was spanked by her whip.
I was once sucker-punched in the testicles by a pairing whip who thought I was responsible for getting a frontbencher so drunk he missed a vote. Happy days.
Times have changed, however, and I remain convinced that the latest claims about the PM have more to do with selling a book than real life in No 10.