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What’s worse, bullying the staff or bullying the system? – Metro US

What’s worse, bullying the staff or bullying the system?

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown treated staff so harshly, it is revealed, that some of them contacted the National Bullying Helpline for assistance in dealing with him.

The revelation follows publication of a book revealing all sorts of tantrums by the prime minister — grabbing staffers by the lapels, pulling them out of chairs, punching walls. And we all thought Brown was a staid economist, duller than dishwater.

Now that the news is out, Brown’s spinners, while denying some of the allegations, are trying to work the story in their favour. These outbursts show a tough-minded leader at work, his PR men say, so dedicated to solving the nation’s problems that he is sometimes overcome by emotion.

The tactic — the humanizing of a robotic leader — might even work. Or the British might buy the take of opposition Conservatives — this shows Brown is an unstable bully unfit for high office.

The revelations from across the pond will likely be greeted with some relief in the office of Stephen Harper, a prime minister painted as somewhat of a bully himself. It’s always comforting to have the focus moved to others, to have your own alleged faults be seen as commonplace.

Interviews with many who have worked in the Harper PMO reveal that he can be cold and severe and occasionally blow a gasket. But if the stories about Brown are true, it should be said that our prime minister isn’t even in the same league. No staffers running to bully hotlines here.

Nor have we seen our PM get so irate that, à la Jean Chretien in 1996, who grabbed a protester by the throat and hurled him to the ground. Nor does he appear to have the short fuse of a Brian Mulroney, who would go into frequent rages, or John Diefenbaker, who was a towering inferno of megalomania.

The issue with Harper is not whether he bullies staff. It’s whether he bullies the system. It’s whether his smearing of opponents, his inclination toward censorship and secrecy, his overcentralizing of powers have downgraded democracy to an unprecedented degree.

The latest allegation suggests that his operatives have violated access to information regulations by delaying or blocking the release of potentially embarrassing government documents. Before this, we saw stories of how his political team crushed a democratic challenge to the nomination of incumbent MP Rob Anders in Calgary. Before this, literally dozens of other such examples.

Lawrence Martin is a journalist and author of 10 books who writes about national affairs from Ottawa.

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