Saturday, February 20, 2010

Thoughts on Gordon Brown

A new book on British Prime Minister Gordon Brown alleges that he was so abusive to his staff that he received a reprimand from the head of Britain's civil service. The book End of the Party by Andrew Rawnsley is presently being excerpted in The Observer. For his part, Brown has denied being physically abusive to anyone.

These revelations are both unsurprising and surprising. In the winter and spring of 1995, I was a parliamentary intern in the British House of Commons as part of an exchange program between Carleton University and the University of Leeds. One of the female interns was placed with Gordon Brown who was at that time the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer. In plain English, Brown was the opposition critic to what is the equivalent of the Secretary of the Treasury or the Minister of Finance.

Now most interns, especially with MPs of senior rank, are relegated to making coffee and other such things. When a young man subsequently joined his staff as a new intern it was assumed the new guy would be making the coffee. However, Brown intervened and demanded the female intern make the coffee on the grounds that "she's just a girl." Now this young woman didn't suffer fools gladly and let Mr. Brown have it. Apparently she got the better of him.

Long story short. The young woman ended up being assigned far more meaningful work. I recall being in attendance at a gathering of the Fabian Society where he was the featured speaker. He made a point of thanking "my research assistant." This illicited much laughter as the story had made the rounds.

In light of Brown's comment to the young woman fifteen years ago I'm not surprised he would behave in such a way to other people. But what does surprise me is that apparently no one else has saw fit to stand up to him. Could it be it's because he's now Prime Minister? But Prime Minister or not, if you are being treated badly and unjustly there's comes a time when you have to stand your ground. If you do stand firm your adversary will be more inclined to respect you even if he works out of 10 Downing Street.

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