Pity poor Christine Pratt. For whatever motive - irritation, perhaps, that she was hearing a story being denied by Downing Street which she knew to be true - she made the fateful decision to enter the political bear pit. She said that Downing Street was wrong to deny that there was any bullying at the heart of government, as her own charity, the National Bullying Helpline, had received complaints from No. 10 staff. At which point, Ms. Pratt became the target of a variety of spin efforts on the part of No.10, that might well qualify as a form of bullying in its own right. She was derided as a political operative, a stooge of the Conservatives, someone unfit to be running a national charity, a liar, an unreliable witness. She has also managed to lose all four of her national patrons as a result of the furore. So Ms. Pratt has seen at first hand just how aggressive the political world can be.
As for No. 10, it has pulled out all the stops to alleviate a damaging story. As I've already noted, they have managed to deny allegations that were not originally made. They have had the Dark Lord of Spin himself, Lord Mandelson, casting aspersions on anyone who has dared to suggest that Gordon Brown is anything other than merely 'driven' and 'passionate'. We've even seen John Prescott - yes, he of the flailing punch - step up to the cameras once again and assert, with his usual pugnacity, that of course there is no bullying at No. 10.
The government did have some time to prepare its response, as Patrick Wintour at the Guardian (The Observer's sister paper) reports today. The Conservative blogger Iain Dale reminds his readers of John Prescott's record, and of Peter Mandelson's earlier views of Gordon Brown. All of which adds up to a political whirlwind that may claim poor, unwary victims like Ms. Pratt, but is unlikely to significantly change the electoral arithmetic. There is an issue of character with regards to Gordon Brown, and there has always been an issue of spin, with New Labour (Mandelson, Brown and Blair's creation) in particular. But voters will still be more interested in who gets them out of an economic crisis most effectively.