Sunday, February 21, 2010

Andrew Rawnsley Book Puff: Hard to Distinguish the Bullies

See also NEXT POST for updates.

The Andrew Rawnsley stories about Gordon Brown and company are somethingly interesting but there is little if anything new here. Yes, Gordon Brown is a believer. He wants to change the world. And he fights to achieve that through his politics.

Rawnsley (above) has been indicating that he's balanced the book and found Brown stories and attributes to admire also. This is a book puff is all. And a newspaper re-launch. Balance goes out the window when there are books and papers to sell.

There can be little doubt that being Chancellor and Prime Minister are high pressure roles and that any driven believer should be hard on himself and on others where there are failures along the way. A hard task master. With a reputation for throwing the occasional paddy. But we're not talking knocking Gerry Adams to the floor here.

Having met Gordon Brown and shaken his hand four or five times, having a couple of photos taken with him, having had a couple of very brief chats and having heard him speak at various events, dinners and conferences I nonetheless cannot claim to know the fella.

But I do feel this is essentially a good man, striving to serve his country and particularly the dispossessed, such as poor old Maggie Thatcher, the excluded and the ordinary woman and man in the street. And just as Tories on the doorstep in 2001 and 2005 would sometimes admire Tony Blair's martial tendancies and charisma, in 2010 Tories and Lib Dems too often volunteer their essential feelings.

That Gordon Brown is a good man, doing a tough job rather well, not getting much credit, partly through his own and others' communication issues.

If I was working directly for him I'd expect to be called on any errors and omissions and to also perhaps bear the brunt of external pressures, disappointments and issues. I couldn't really believe my eyes as I read Peter Watt's self-centred account of a lack-lustre dining experience. Gordon was pre-occupied. He had some not very important guests in the great scheme of things - like Peter Watt - and he wasn't at his best as a host.

For goodness sake! Grow up Peter Watt. Now we have Observer lobby correspondent Andrew Rawnsley hoovering up hundreds of anecdotes from dozens of people. Each accounting for a few seconds or perhaps minutes of some busy day in some 1,000 days as PM and towards 4,000 as Chancellor. Gathered together these turn a pattern of niggles and trivia, and quite simply not being a slick and genial as his mate Tony Blair.

Not only does this provide a pattern. If you're looking for one. But it also looks like this may be an unrelenting 24/7 obnoxiousness, rather than bits and bobs of frustration at fails - personal, specific and collective. Perhaps insensitivity to the more precious staff members. Some not tolerating fools gladly. And a good deal of carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders.

All the time dealing with a difficult visual impairment, hardly facilitating the cheery twinkly Blair charm, and with some very difficult issues and times.

The National Bullying Helpline (NBH) deserve a good kicking, a good metaphorical kicking, for their truly horrendous fails in professional standards. Betraying the confidences of callers, albeit in general terms, and telling ITN of "several" staff making calls over the past "few years". Relaying unchecked reports of personnel issues - loosely labeled bullying, but perhaps no more nor less than a deserved roasting, or some big feet trampling on some long toes (a great Dutch idiom) - to millions of viewers.

Number 10 say that no case was ever referred back to them, that they were never contacted at all by NBH, and express surprise that this organisation should comment.

Did NBH even check the identity of any callers locating themselves in Number 10? The National Bullying Helpline are in effect bullying Gordon Brown by feeding a carried away media narrative, stoked by The Observer on re-launch Sunday and as a book publisher, and by the smug author himself.

Things don't get any better when there's even the lightest of delvings into NBH and its relatives. Their website declares their charitable not-for-profit status, and a connection with a for-profit company HR & Diversity Management Limited, based at the very same address and with the very same key personnel.

ITN quoted Christine Pratt as the CEO of the Charity. She is also the Principal with her husband David Arthur Pratt of their consultancy. This lovely pair pictured above. It looks from preliminary searches that the latter might be the only Trustee of the charity, hardly best practice, though hardly a rarity in the world of small and medium charities.

This one is a bit different though through its close links with a private company that is not its own trading arm.

What else is there? Here's what I wrote pre-delving at Liberal Burblings whose post HERE seems a bit previous and naive to say the least:

I agree with this (the post). Basically. However it is worth noting a few salient facts:

  • 1. Staff members getting in touch doesn’t give any indication of the nature of their complaint or enquiry;
  • 2. Certainly not whether this or these was/is well-founded etc;
  • 3. Or even whether identities and any complaints were fact-checked or referred anywhere for action;
  • 4. Mrs Pratt, as well as being CEO of the National Bullying Helpline (a Charity and CLG), is the main Practitioner in the mom and pop consultancy HR Diversity Management Limited (a private for profit Company) based I think at the same address and linked. and I’m not suggesting any wrong doing in recording this fact;
  • 5. She has also been the Chair of an anti-bullying working party (PDF download) for the Conservative Swindon Council. No idea whether this is voluntary or involves a fee or honorarium;
  • 6. As well as the NBH having a web endorsement from David Cameron and Anne Widdecombe the latter is a Patron, as is a local Tory councillor;
  • 7. Not checked yet who are the Trustees, can’t see them listed on the charity website;

  • 8. David Cameron publicly and rather grandly endorsed the organisation about six months ago. (above, a local Tory website reporting this)

  • There is a huge spectrum of general nowtiness and staff relations issues. Let’s not assume the worst. I think Rawnsley is a bit of a rat myself. And this is certainly not his best work when it comes to fact-checking and responsible sourcing.

    As far as I can see at the moment anyway. Brown is essentially a good man, whether you like his politics or those of his party or not. And he has a bit of a temper. He is driven to get things right for the working people he wishes to help.

    The hyperlinks have been added and weren't in my comment when it first went up. Have now had a chance to check the Directors/Trustees of the Charity in a preliminary search. It's remarkable. The arithmetic is troublesome. Two Directors and a Secretary resigned and two new Directors and a Secretary were appointed on 24 January 2007. The Secretary may have also been a Director. So far so OK.

    This is pretty standard. The company formation people making an exit. Another Director was added three months later. Nine months later in the span of one week FOUR Directors resigned. At which point they would apparently have ZERO Directors. David Arthur Pratt himself corrected this SEVEN MONTHS later by going on the board.

    And finally, just before Christmas a further Director - Susan Field - which the arithmetic didn't reveal had her appointment terminated. It may be that Companies House and/or the Charity Commission forced one of 'em to stay on to keep things legal. Here's the basic search:

    On the face of things this charity - with a CEO gracing ITN studios this very day - has a chequered history governance wise, and her husband and partner in their private consultancy company is steering the charity all by himself. Which is not a good situation. The Private Company has had some comings and goings to but the arithmetic is less clear from my searches to date.

    Are the Pratt's active Conservative members? I don't know. If you do please let me know. Meanwhilst there's this intriguing lead:

    FOOTNOTE: This site - the Andrea Adams Trust aka Ban Bullying at Work (same site) an ostensibly similar organisation carries the following:

    Disclaimer Notice: The Andrea Adams Trust National Workplace Bullying Helpline has no affiliation with, nor recommends the 'National Bullying Helpline Charity' or its affiliated sister service, The HR & Diversity Management Limited Company, run by Christine Pratt

  • UPDATE: Adam Bienkov's Tory Troll has more including these problems. Incidentally the Tory Pratts started their own short-lived blog at about the same time. Managed two posts.


    maxie3 said...

    Pratt by name &, apparently, by nature!

    Anonymous said...

    Are we allowed to say this?
    "With a reputation for throwing the occasional paddy. But we're not talking knocking Gerry Adams to the floor here."