No, Minister!

In the UK, the founder of an anti-bullying charity and helpline, Christine Pratt, blew the whistle that there is a bullying problem at No. 10 Downing Street, and staff had called her service for help.

Now, how would you expect a British Government respond to that? I would expect the Prime Minister to issue some statement like "we are taking any bullying issues seriously and we have set up a follow-up team to review our guidelines to prevent inappropriate workplace behaviour". Bland and unexciting and politically correct, but that's what any sane employer would do.

I wouldn't expect what minister Phil Woolas did: mock the anti-bullying activist by calling her "prat of a woman".

Remarkable. If I were accused of bullying, particularly in such a sensitive and significant position as a Cabinet minister, how should I respond? Would I really want to resort to the most classic bullying tactics: calling my adversary by names, playing with her name, degrading her?

This kind of behaviour could be expected from the so-called underclass in Britain: people who abuse each other verbally, in a brutal way, because they can't read or write. People who hit you if they don't like the way you look at them or talk to them.

But a minister? I would expect a dull, bureaucratic response, or in the best case, witty, slightly sarcastic but sympathetic phrases like "this so unfortunately misguided lady who is nevertheless working for a good cause which we aspire to support".

It appears that minister Phil Woolas - immigration minister, by chance, so one could assume he is setting a behavioural example to those who are new to Britain and British culture - decided to thoroughly demonstrate how terribly right Mrs. Pratt was when saying there is a bullying problem in the British government.

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