SLOG ANALYSIS SPECIAL: WHERE DOES BROWN GO FROM HERE?

Today’s sensational intervention by Christine Pratt has done more than make Lord Mandelson a false advocate, and The Independent a laughing stock. It has done key damage to the office of Prime Minister, and made it impossible now for Gordon Brown to appeal to key floating-voter groups.

Comment thread No 64 at Nick Robinson’s blog was barely past the moderator at 3.55pm this afternoon when head of the National Bullying Helpline Christine Pratt intervened to make the whole debate about Gordon Brown’s bullying personality obsolete. In a rare leap from the fence tonight, Nick ends his blog as follows:

‘…bullying – if it took place – is different from other personal behaviour. It is simply unacceptable.’

The spinning will now go into overdrive. No doubt by tomorrow morning one of the following ‘explanations’ will have surfaced:
1. It wasn’t Brown at all. It was other people.
2. The complainants conspired to undermine the Prime Minister having been bribed and drugged by members of David Cameron’s inner circle.
3. Ms Pratt is a lesbian sexual abuser of antique dolls, and not to be taken seriously. She is suffering from Munchhausen’s Syndrome by Proxy vote, and has a history of mental illness.
4. All four of the complainants have been traced and admitted that they now love Gordon very much and completely misinterpreted his act of hanging them upside down outside the second floor window of Downing Street.

Joking apart (and are we really joking here?)it no longer matters what the muppets inside the Number Ten press office come up with: nobody will believe it. As the day has gone on and more hacks have got through to Christine Pratt, her decision to tell all looks increasingly damning of both Brown and Mandelson. Ms Pratt ‘saw red’ she told the Telegraph, when people began ‘denying’ the culture of bullying inside Number Ten. Who is going to care if it was Gordon or Ed or Alistair Darling or Lord Mandelson himself? There was never so much as a whiff of this under Tony Blair, John Major, Margaret Thatcher or Ted Heath. Even Hitler was nice to his secretaries.

The allegations (and they remain for now non-specific) are all the more damaging following The Observer’s allegation this morning that Civil Service chief Sir Gus O’Donnell had been forced to intervene and reprimand Brown for his behaviour. The whole point of The Slogger’s Nick Robinson posting was to argue that this had become a question of Brown’s character. The thread comment ended:

‘Mr Brown is not on trial here. He is merely a top politician arguing vehemently that he is a man of good, ethical and caring character. As you so rightly say Nick, based on the consistent mountain of evidence laid out above, the People must now decide whether the PM’s self-image is reflected by the reality of his behaviour’.

The answer came swiftly: no,it isn’t. And the voters now know this pretty much for sure. But will they care?

Most won’t, if I’m being honest. Bullying has been a part of corporate life for over two decades, and there are many who would see the anti-bullying helpline as just another pc quango wanting everything to be perfect. They might even see it as a delicious irony that Brown has been caught in the barbed wire of the very sort of organisation they despise.

But women – at work or at home, it makes no difference – will not see it like that at all, and they’ll be right. There is little more hateful than a boss who takes advantage of rank and strength in his dealings with female staff. And these are the women – those very child-rearing, professional women who often cast their vote on emotional trust – upon whom Brown depended if he was to capture a decent share of the huge proportion of all electors still undecided about where to put that cross on polling day.

As the story broke, I was preparing a piece for tomorrow about why the opinion pollsters are underestimating the Tory lead. My argument was that, mathematically, it would take a miracle to put Brown back in Downing Street on the day after the election. In being found guilty of allowing the creation of a bullying office culture, Gordon Brown has instead destroyed the last chance Labour had. And as Robinson recorded on his blog tonight, Mandelsonian mendacity has backfired big-time.

But the ramifications will stretch further than the female undecided vote. Since the original Not Born Yesterday revelations about Brown’s depressive compulsions last September, more and more testimony has piled up to suggest that he is unfit to hold the office of Prime Minister. To many male voters too, he is emerging increasingly as a man quite clearly not in control of himself. Our chief source last September told The Slog’s mother site:

“In both a physical and mental sense, the Prime Minister is a very sick man, seriously disabled…The Prime Minister of Great Britain is a man too ill to be holding the Office.”

Another commented:

“I’m afraid all the stories about him throwing things around and screaming at secretaries are entirely true. He behaves impeccably in public and can really turn on the charm when he needs to in private – but inside the bunker he behaves appallingly…”

A senior MP journalist said in private as long ago as March 2009, “Brown’s behaviour inside the walls of Downing Street is nothing short of tacky”.

The writing was even taller on the wall six months ago. The Anyone But Gordon group inside the Parliamentary Party has tried at least three times to get rid of this millstone of a man. As of today, he looks set to finally sink its electoral hopes. The Labour Party has only itself to blame.