Bullying in politics: 'Bully Brown' fights on

Newspapers have been full of stories about Gordon Brown's 'bullying', but as PRWeek's survey shows, the Prime Minister's image may not be tarnished.

The media may have made a song and dance about it, but according to our survey Prime Minister Gordon Brown's reputation has not been particularly affected by recent allegations of bullying in Downing Street.

Fewer than one in four of PRWeek's 3,000 respondents said their opinion of him was more negative following the stories, and 70 per cent said their opinion had not changed.

This does not necessarily mean the stories were a storm in a media teacup, as 40 per cent felt the story was simply another nail in Brown's campaign coffin.

'The public is not clear about what it expects from a Prime Minister,' says Sacha Deshmukh, CEO of Mandate. 'This is not a universally negative story about Brown. People within his camp have come forward to talk about his strength.'

In fact the press attention paid to Brown may have provoked sympathy from the public, as 73 per cent of respondents said they had noticed an increase in anti-Brown stories in the press. And 34 per cent felt the media were unfairly biased towards the Conservatives, whereas just 13 per cent felt they were biased towards Labour.

Overall, the party the public most associated with bullying was the BNP, as the graph, right, shows. Labour was next with 13 per cent. The Liberal Democrats scored two per cent. Deshmukh says: 'No-one is advocating bullying, but the Lib Dems would have to question if they are seen as weak.'

Respondents did not have strong views on whether bullying was a problem in politics, but 62 per cent said bullying was always unacceptable. And just eight per cent felt all politicians were bullies.

HOW I SEE IT

Louise Abbott, Senior account manager, Insight Public Affairs

Revelations about the darker side of Downing Street are not new. While Andrew Rawnsley's account of Brown's behaviour in Rawnsley's new book The End of The Party might be unattractive, voters will not be surprised.

Its impact depends on whether people see Brown's 'strong-willed' character as an attribute of a determined PM or a flaw that suggests something rather more sinister. Although 61 per cent of people think bullying is unacceptable, many of those polled don't think bullying is a problem in the mainstream parties.

A stable six-point national poll margin between Labour and the Tories last week suggests this is not an election issue.

Christine Pratt from the National Bullying Helpline has come in for rather more criticism. Number 10's media management has been better than this poll suggests but was overshadowed by Alistair Darling's 'forces of hell' comment, which resuscitated the story midweek.

- Do you feel bullying in politics is a problem?

Don't know: 44%

Yes: 28%

No: 28%

Do you think there is an unfair bias in the press towards either the Conservatives or the Labour party?

No bias: 52%

Yes, biased towards Conservatives: 34.5%

Yes, biased towards Labour: 13.5%

Media coverage

73% say they have noticed an increase in anti-Gordon Brown stories in the press

Opinion of Brown

70% say the recent story alleging bullying by Gordon Brown has not changed their opinion of him

Opinion of bullying

62% say bullying is always unacceptable, no matter what the situation

Effects of allegation

40% feel this is another nail in Gordon Brown's campaign coffin

Survey of 3,000 members of the public conducted by global research agency OnePoll

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