Wednesday 24 February 2010

As above, so below

Paul Sagar has an interesting post on the bullying scandal here. He argues that, despite the obvious ulterior motives of various involved parties, it's a good thing that the accusations against Brown have come out, and specifically that it's a good thing they've come out now.

His argument is that whereas pretty much every other boss in every other office in the country can be held to account, either via internal processes or by resort to an industrial tribunal, there is not, and should not be, any similar mechanism to control a prime minister. His office is solely in the gift of the electorate, and for any other body to have the power to sack him for misconduct or harrassment would be a gross violation of democracy.

I don't agree. The reasons I don't agree are largely the same reasons I don't care about this particular "scandal".

1) There is no way the electorate are being given a full, unbiased and accurate picture of the issue. A full independent inquiry presented to the electorate with the minimum of spin, leaks, tendentious reporting and distortion might be one thing; the current rumour-fest turns the idea that I'm in position to sit in judgement on Brown's conduct to colleagues and underlings into a bad joke.
2) I don't need to allegations of bullying to tell me that Brown is a bad leader. The evidence for that is ample, and has been piling up since roughly autumn 2007. I don't mean previous leaks about "tantrums", or anonymous briefings against ministers; I mean the observably poor leadership of the country over the past 2.5 years. As a voter, my concerns about potential PMs should only relate to how they'll run the country. It's bad enough when I'm also asked to form a judgement on their personal morality; now I'm apparently in the position of enforcing HR policy in Number 10 to boot. "He'll treat his special advisers with respect and humanity" is so far down the reasons to vote for any party leader it's jostling for position with "his wife is rather pretty" and "he's a dog person".

The only thing that would make this whole farrago interesting would be if Brown were in fact a competent PM - if he had set out an agenda, pushed it through against opposition with a mixture of diplomacy, consensus-seeking and force, brought the country round to his vision and was now popular and respected. If he'd done that and were still revealed as a horrendous bully who shattered both the morale and the faces of his underlings, there'd be a real moral dilemma for voters to face up to. However, this is fundamentally unlikely. Competence in running the country would be a result of running a well-functioning internal team, not a completely unrelated phenomenon. If the allegations weren't about bullying, then they'd be about some other appalling management failure. If Brown can't run the country, how the hell can we expect him to run an office?