Brown likes to start the day with an early briefing over the phone on what the media are reporting. This is followed by a wider conference call with his other key advisers at 7.30. He is not an avid reader of newspapers, although he will look at the front pages and the main political stories. His preference is for regular verbal updates during the day. "He will regularly ask, 'What's going on? Everything under control?' " When he believes a story is running out of control or that – the worst sin of all – the press office has been caught unawares, he can react with extraordinary flashes of anger. Stories of mobile phones hurled across the room in fury regularly appear in the press, although it rarely gets to that stage. Shouting at staff, jabbing an angry finger, throwing down papers, even kicking the furniture are far more common.
His behaviour towards relatively junior members of staff can be "unforgivable" according to one person who has witnessed it. "It isn't a very nice place for people to work. However bad it sometimes looks from the outside, it's far, far worse from the inside. And the atmosphere is very much set by him." Those in the press office more used to dealing with the daily onslaught of unpredictable news put it down to Brown's 10 years in the Treasury, where events could be carefully planned and the phone never rang in the middle of the night with another crisis to be handled.
It is Brown's misfortune that he is forever being assessed in the light of the observation that he is "psychologically flawed". Those who have witnessed his behaviour refer back to it constantly without being prompted. "It doesn't come close," said one. Another said Brown was always looking for somebody else to blame when things went wrong. "It's this self-pity thing. There's a pathetic side to him that is really unbecoming." A third said the problems have got no better with time, concluding: "He is psychologically and emotionally incapable of leadership of any kind."
And here lies the difference between Gordon Brown and Margaret Thatcher. Brown revels in bullying subordinates and junior staff who can't hit back. You cannot imagine him treating the likes of David Blunkett or John Reid in that manner.
Margaret Thatcher, on the other hand, would revel in shouting matches with her most senior ministers - people who were her equal. But you'll never find any of her staff to say a bad word about the way she treated them. She was kind, respectful, considerate and appreciative of their efforts.
And that's why Margaret Thatcher is a great leader of people, whereas Gordon Brown doesn't understand the meaning of the word. He's a bully, not a leader.