Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Breach of Confidentiality

I imagine the National Bullying Helpline operates under the same sort of rules of confidentiality as Childline. If I were one of the three or four Downing Street employees who had phoned the helpline in confidence, I'd be pretty cheesed off to find that my call had been made public by the Helpline's chief executive today. Because you can be sure that someone, somewhere in Number Ten will be tasked with finding out who these four individuals are.

UPDATE: Dizzy has been beavering away and found Hansard references which prove that there have been allegations of bullying in Downing Street and the Treasury over the last few years.

37 comments:

Plato said...

You've called this wrong Iain.

No confidentiality has been broken at all - what Ms Pratt has done is blown apart Labour's assertion that there's no problem at No 10 in terms of culture as raised by Mr Rawnsley et al.

Your nose for news must have a cold.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

A good point, but it is possible that the people concerned have given consent for this to go public.

This is massive. Messrs Watt and Price can be written off by number Ten as embittered ex employees with an axe to grind. Rawnsley is a journalist with a book to sell. I am not casting doubt on their versions of events, but when the National Bullying helpline, aka ordinary people, reveals it has taken calls from staff at Number Ten Downing Street you can be sure that the Government has lost control of the narrative of deceit.

I think this is it. This is the death of Brown. He cannot spin his way out of this. They are now queuing up to stab him.

freddo41 said...

Spot on, Iain - straight to the heart of the matter!

Jimmy said...

I wonder if Tony was one of them

golden_balls said...

I wonder if the National Bullying Helpline would agree to give information regarding any calls made about Tory HQ past and present ? Senior Tories ? Total Politics ?

miko said...

Iain

Gordon Brown was never going to be in Downing St for the election - my contacts in Whitehall are saying he will be moved out within the next 7 DAYS.

Hence the half hearted and odd support from Mandelson this morning.

Replacement for the election will be put into position (Straw most likely) and hopes of a hung Parliament.

Gordon Brown is entering the last week of his position as PM - it's over.

Peter said...

Oh the irony!
New Labour's leader hung drawn and quartered by one of the creations of the nanny state.

Span Ows said...

No confidentiality has been broken here...no names no pack drill. To name the PM's office is just as they would name any workplace if another bullying case hit the headlines, and, as the lady in question mentions, to NOT say anything and allow Brown and Mandy a free denial would make the bullied even more stressed out...

Liz said...

The NBH's website says: "Where confidentiality is sought it is always given - unconditionally." My feeling is there's a bit of weasel-ism going on here; it seems confidentiality isn't invoked unless it's specifically requested, which seems a bit...off.

WV = resessn. Someone at Blogger has a sense of humour.

Urban Cowboy said...

I'm inclined to agree with Plato, but I also think you have inadvertently got the issues the wrong way round Iain.

That the charity has publicly stated they received the calls helps to raise their profile for others to contact them - no bad thing in my view. It is not a breach of confidentiality to make the statement per se; I recall the likes of Childline have made similar public statements for some years.

But you do make a point about the quite possible behaviour within the Administration as a result of this comment by the charity, and that is the stalking horse to watch out for from here.

The helpline prominently states on their website that personal details will not be passed on to anyone else. Even the most mendacious dribbling idiot Brownite inside 10 Downing Street will know that to try and get the caller details from the helpline will be far too risky, even if they tried using someone in their rapidly shrinking pool of friendly journos. But they can easily find out who made the calls in other ways, and it's for that reason I would suggest watching very carefully who gets quietly transferred to another office, or goes on extended leave, over the next couple of weeks. That's how Brown's little club will deal with the matter.

Will the voting public be influenced by this? Sadly I don't think so, not when you consider the appalling mess this Government has put the country in and yet is still holding a decent level of support.

JamesW said...

What Plato said. No-one has been named, so no confidentiality has been broken. If true, then how on earth can Broon stay on?

DespairingLiberal said...

I see that the Patron of the "National Bullying Helpline" (despite the name, it is not any kind of official organisation) is one "the RT.HON. Ann Widdecombe MP". Hmmm. The other main patron is "Cllr Mary O'Connor". Conservative. Hillingdon.

No chance of bias there then!

Guthrum said...

Called it wrong on this one. When the Captain of the ship of State is clearly delusional and acting like a fourth rate Fuhrer in the bunker. The other officers should have removed him- are they terrified of him as well ?

Jimmy said...

That's the least of it. there's an interesting blog about them here:

http://thebullyinghelpline.blogspot.com/

They sound like utterly charming people.

Jess The Dog said...

The same thought fleetingly crossed my mind. But I reached a different conclusion.

This is whistleblowing in the face of whitewash. Same as when a social worker or NHS worker speaks out about failings on their watch...they have an ethical duty to do so.

There are a number of stages in response to bullying accusations, short of acceptance, which we have seen today.

- Denial. Deny it happened.
- Belittle. Play it down as minor or exaggerated or everyday.
- Justification. Claim it is a high-pressure environment where robust behaviour is expected...
'doesn't tolerate fools' or 'is very demanding of himself and others'.
- Defence. Wheel out someone to say 'I've never seen him being a bully...'
- Intimidate. Let staff members know that they'll be collecting P45s if they tell tales.

Brown had a chance to nip this in the bud....he could have anticipted this before the Piers Morgan interview, and got an apology of sorts in first.

Denying or defending such behaviour is completely inappropriate, in the highest office in the land. No-one should be expected to put up with such rubbish.

norman said...

In schools and work places, we are told as far as bullies are concerned, no confidentiality there.
Desperate Labour supporters drumming up support for Broon, the bully.

Alan Douglas said...

To say 3 or 4 people in Downing Street AND the Treasury over 3 or 4 years means that several hundred, or even thousands of people COULD BE the complainants.

In 2004-5 there are nearly 1600 staff listed in the Treasury. (Govt doc) No confidentiality was breached.

Alan Douglas

wv : ressess

Thatsnews said...

There are still some people willing to back Gordon Brown. They must think it funny that Brown abuses his staff.

Would you take it, Brown's backers?

trevorsden said...

The point surely is that when the leader of the organisation can see barefaced lies being spouted they have a moral duty to speak out.

especially in the context of bullying.

Take schools for instance - there has been a big anti bullying campaign. Now we see the PM himself is a bully.

neat points about confidentiality come second to whistle-blowing.
Once again Mr Dale you show yourself to be too nice.

Lord Lavendon said...

Iain, the allegations of bullying are bad enough. Now we are all political here, but I think you would be with me in praying (OK hoping) that our Prime Minister is at least a man of honour.

With deep regret, from my heart, it would appear that this is less and less the case.

Iain, one thing I detest is bullies and people who have a short fuse; rather reminds me of when myself and a best friend of mine were accused of being “puffs”, as I said “well you are wrong, but if we were what’s wrong with that” and another time when a group of lads tried to assault my best – who was an immigrant from Hong Kong, but was thoroughly a Brit- friend for being a “chink”. On both occasions I gave the cads what for; never attack a Lavendon and his friends!

And Brown appears to be a bully, but one with tremendous powers, in his role as Prime Minister. This must be stopped for the good of the civil service and the nation.

Mr. Brown purports to be a Christian. And yet his 'style' is anything but that of how our Lord would have acted. I cannot see Jesus throwing Nokias at St. Peter or even Judas (if Nokias had been around 2,000 years ago). Perhaps Mr. Brown needs to resign, go on a pilgrimage (I can suggest Iona is a good Scottish retreat) and allow some one else to take charge?

William said...

They, the National Bullying Helpline, can't even spell privacy, so perhaps this is their 'get-out' clause..

PRIVICY POLICY

We have a clear privacy policy. We do not share your details with anyone. In a situation where you may wish us to support you in bringing a complaint against your employer we would observe conflict of interest. Where we are asked to mediate we would seek consent from both the employee and the employer to ensure that this approach suited all the parties. Click here to see our Terms and Conditions.

trevorsden said...

A quote from a former Brown aid in the Guardian says --

"The claim of routine bullying was today backed up a senior former adviser to Brown in No 10, who told the Guardian:
"His intense bouts of anger are unremarkable to anyone who has worked closely with him. You just have to put up with this stuff. It is part of the daily experience, almost part of the furniture. He would behave in that way constantly. He suffers from a massive paranoia and an inability to accept blame, yet he runs a blame culture that allows him to blame others.
"He does not seek to win an argument, he just seeks to bully. If you have not worked closely with him before, it is truly shocking" "


Thats - 'he does not seek to win an argument, he just seks to bully'

Thats why we ended up selling Gold at rock bottom prices
Thats why we ended up taxing pensions - with disastrous consequences.
Thats why we ended up taking all the powers the Bank of England ever had away from them.
Thats why we have been economically ruined by post classical endogenous growth theory.

Jess The Dog said...

If this had been racial or sexual harassment subject to cover-up and denial, there would be no doubts about the duty on a whistleblower to speak out.

The Purpleline said...

I think Ms Pratt has done a public service.

Noticeable that Downing street do not deny staff may have called the helpline!

They counter that the charity never contacted them. Perhaps the simple answer is the staff asked that no representation be made they just wanted advise co they could put that to Gus.

Gus needs to come out and be truthful or be sacked

Mrs R said...

No Iain, wrong call.

Every organisation these days keeps statistical lists, they have to, and all the "National Bullying Helpine" has done is break down their data. That's all they've done, released a number - no names, and that number happens to tie in with other data that Dizzy found on public record.

But they aren't the only group, take a look at the broad stats on another website
http://www.bullyonline.org/workbully/worbal.htm

That site also says
http://www.bullyonline.org/workbully/myths.htm

"It is always the bully who is weak and inadequate. Bullies resort to labelling others as "weak" and "unstable" in order to appear "normal" in comparison. Normal people don't need to bully; only weak people need to bully to hide their weakness and inadequacy. Therefore anyone who is exhibiting bullying behaviours is revealing and admitting to being weak and inadequate."

Says a lot really.

Jimmy said...

"In a situation where you may wish us to support you in bringing a complaint against your employer we would observe conflict of interest. Where we are asked to mediate we would seek consent from both the employee and the employer to ensure that this approach suited all the parties."

In other words, if you call us we will contact your employer offering our company's services in convincing not to go to tribunal.

The Purpleline said...

Perhaps Blairs clunking fist remark has more truth in it and it was a coded warning to Blairites to expose the failings of this most horrible man.

Journalists should have questioned Blair more closely on what he really meant about the great clunking fist

50 Calibre said...

There are times when the ruleds just have to be broken. This is one of those times.

M. Hristov said...

You would do well to study the Kamlesh Bahl affair, which involved alleged bullying by a Law Society Vice-President ( a high flying Asian lady). There was a full judicial enquiry with a very senior judge involved. This might be a precedent.

Nick said...

Had there been even the vaguest suggestion that any Tory minister had behaved like that c.1996-7 the media (including the BBC) would have been baying for blood and in full cry about the individual concerned being unfit for office and would have forced them out within days. I doubt that will happen now. Mandelson et al will lie and the media (particularly the broadcast media) will go all pusillanimous and allow them to brazen it out.

titus-aduxas said...

"golden_balls said...
I wonder if the National Bullying Helpline would agree to give information regarding any calls made about Tory HQ past and present ? Senior Tories ? Total Politics ?"

Why would they do that? The NBH ONLY made a statement to contradict the obvious lies from the Govt.

Do you have any evidence of bullying by Tories or are you doing what all trolls do - deflect?

"Jimmy said...
"In a situation where you may wish us to support you in bringing a complaint against your employer we would observe conflict of interest. Where we are asked to mediate we would seek consent from both the employee and the employer to ensure that this approach suited all the parties."

In other words, if you call us we will contact your employer offering our company's services in convincing not to go to tribunal."

Is English your second language, Jimmy?

It states, quite clearly, for those of us, who can read, "...where you may wish...", "...Where we are asked to mediate...", "...we would seek consent from both the employee and the employer...".

Without the specific permission of the employee, the NBH would not contact the employer. Is that clearer, now, Jimmy?

John Ionides said...

I think you have called this one wrong, Iain. In the position of one of the targets of Brown's behaviour, the fact that someone like Ms Pratt is coming out and saying that there really was a problem (against the flat denials from the likes of Mandelson) would provide considerable relief. At least somebody believes them.

It is typical of this New Labour lot that they somehow think that the laws they pile on everyone else simply don't apply to themselves.

DespairingLiberal said...

Your link to Dizzy's "beavering away" in Hansard appears to be a completely misleading non-sequitur. All he found was that Tory MPs have asked if bullying had been reported and the reply was that it had not.

The more I think about this, the more it has the icy fingers of a CCHQ campaign and Andy Coulson written all over it.

Has Coulson had any communication about this with Ann Widdecombe for example?

Iain Dale said...

DL Like me Ann Widdecombe has condemned the charity for breaching confidence. So I wouldn't warm up those conspiracy theories too much just yet.

titus-aduxas said...

From Hansard:

"Grant Shapps:
To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many staff in (a) the Prime Minister's Office and (b) the Leader of the House's Office were disciplined for (i) bullying and (ii) harassment of colleagues in each of the last three years.

Mr. Watson:
It is not the policy of the Cabinet Office to release personal data relating to individual staff. I can confirm that in the period specified, there were fewer than five cases in the Department where staff were disciplined for bullying and harassment of colleagues. It would not be appropriate to provide a further breakdown."

DL
I am now convinced that English is your second language. How does
"there were fewer than five cases in the Department where staff were disciplined for bullying and harassment of colleagues. " equate to "All he found was that Tory MPs have asked if bullying had been reported and the reply was that it had not."

starfish said...

How predictable

Outright denial followed by a smear campaign

And the BBC spinning for the government like crazy

I thought Humnphreys' interrogation of Ms Pratt this morning on Toady was quite incredible

Mandelson clearly controlling the media - or trying to

I wonder what other revelations are about to appear? Clearly anyone victimised as a result of contacting this helpline can be expected to have no shortage of people wanting to publish their story....

Jimmy said...

"Without the specific permission of the employee, the NBH would not contact the employer. Is that clearer, now, Jimmy?"

Which of course makes it entirely ethical?

Sound like scam artists to me.