Socialist Worker

Bullying is rampant in Gordon Brown’s Britain

Issue No. 2190

The prime minster does not hit people, he says. It says something about the state of British politics that Brown not hitting people has dominated the news for days.

But Brown does have temper tantrums, smashes equipment and bullies his staff. The glimpses into life at Number 10 do not paint a very pleasant picture.

And the crisis in government is real. As New Labour’s warmongering neoliberal project has crumbled, it has spilled over into internal crisis after crisis. Corruption and chaos seem to be the hallmark of the last 100 days of New Labour.

There is a steady trickle of books revealing the dirty washing of Brown’s government. Feeling safe in the belief that the Tories will be in government soon, journalists are cashing in on the gossip they’ve known for ages but didn’t deign to share with us before.

One part of this story has been an outbreak of astounding hypocrisy. “Prime Monster,” cried the Sun newspaper.

It went on to lambast Brown, while defending bullying as being “tough”.

Since the Sun is in essence the daily handbook for every petty sexist and racist bully, this is not surprising.

And the Tories’ attempts to make political gain from all this is, as they are, more than a bit rich.

It takes some nerve for David Cameron, who went to Eton, to decry a bullying culture.

This is a school where younger pupils —“fags” as they charmingly call them—are the personal bullied servants of older boys.

At a more fundamental level, the Tories are based on the ideology that those at the top have the god-given right to push around those who are “beneath them”. That is one reason they aren’t too far ahead in the polls.

Nonetheless there is a real issue about bullying that goes far beyond whether Brown threw his phone at someone or shoved his keyboard through his computer screen.

Every petty dictator of a manager uses bullying to push people around and to humiliate them. It is a method of keeping workers quiet. It is also a way in which the bosses divide people at work.

Workplace bullying is widespread. At least one fifth of all workers have experienced some form of bullying over the previous two years.

The permanent pressure to increase profits by making us work harder encourages bullying.

“Management by stress” is the preferred name to describe making us work more.

Every worker knows that when we are told to be flexible or that we are “empowered”, the reality is we are stressed out of our minds and completely exhausted, working more hours for less pay.

New Labour’s neoliberal drive extend the bullying methods used across the private sector into our public services.

So perhaps it is not surprising that one consequence of New Labour’s love affair with neoliberalism is that they have adopted one of its uglier workplace practices as part of government.

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What We Think
Tue 23 Feb 2010, 19:25 GMT
Issue No. 2190
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