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Opposition call for inquiry into Brown ‘bullying’

Conservative leader David Cameron and his Liberal Democrat counterpart Nick Clegg both called on 10 Downing Street yesterday to look into allegations of bullying of staff.

Their calls were sparked by claims from the founder of an anti-bullying charity that her helpline had received calls from Downing Street staff complaining of the way they were treated.

But First Secretary Lord Mandelson dismissed calls for an inquiry, claiming they were part of a “political operation” to undermine Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Lord Mandelson accused Conservative Press officers of guiding journalists towards National Bullying Helpline founder Christine Pratt, in the assumption that she had “some fuel to throw on this fire”.

But he was accused in turn by the Conservatives of trying to “smear” Mrs Pratt by wrongly portraying her as a political stooge.

Downing Street insisted that there was a “zero tolerance” approach to bullying in the Civil Service, and that there were no grievance procedures under way in relation to Number 10 or the Cabinet Office at present.

Mrs Pratt spoke out following the publication of extracts of a book by Andrew Rawnsley that included accounts of Mr Brown pulling a secretary from her chair, “roughly shoving” an aide, and four-letter-word rants that frightened staff.

The helpline had received two calls from the Deputy Prime Minister's Office and two or more from Number 10, she said.

But she acknowledged that none referred to claims of bullying by Mr Brown himself.

Mr Cameron called for an inquiry into the bullying allegations by Sir Philip Mawer, who polices the ministerial code.

Speaking at an event in London, the Tory leader said: “These are very serious matters. I'm sure that Number 10 Downing Street and the civil service in some way will want to have some sort of inquiry to get to the bottom of what has happened here.

“To me, all of this just says we need to get on, have a general election and have a fresh start.”

And Mr Clegg called on Downing Street to clear up exactly what had been going on behind closed doors at Number 10.

“The allegations that junior staff, voiceless staff, have been going to a national bullying hotline seems to me to be very important,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

“Bullying is totally out of order in whatever walk of life you work, however important you are.”

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