Tuesday 15 November 2022

The adult bullying thing (again)

While we await Hunt's Thursday offering, it seems the whole "bullying of adults" thing is a live issue again, be it (allegedly) Raab, Patel, Williamson, Braverman etc etc.  We've discussed it here several times before, and for me there's still some mystery involved.

It's plain enough that workplace bullying by those with genuine career-breaking authority is (a) a real thing; (b) dreadful; and (c) quite difficult to deal with.  If, as seems to be the case (and indeed, seems quite likely) there are bullying politicians who make life intolerable for Civil Servants - particularly junior ones - then that is, in turn, intolerable.  (The obvious fix is only to expose juniors that are of a robust disposition, and never in 1-1 situations.  Needless to say, politicians are hardly unique in such matters.)

What I don't understand is how the average MP ever gets to be brow-beaten by a shit like Gavin Williamson - though it seems they do.  This extends to other whips who didn't like his conduct but seemingly didn't rein him in at the time.   Now if you are, not an average MP, but one who's deeply in debt and other kinds of trouble and who has already thrown themselves on the mercy of Williamson (when he was Chief Whip) - well, that I understand.  But the average MP of my acquaintance, male or female, is pretty self-confident & thick-skinned.  And Williamson is transparently, errr, what he is.

So how come, the very first time he tried this stuff on, he didn't get an immediate f***-off, accompanied by a metaphorical slap round the chops and an explanation of what might follow if he tried to take matters further (in this day and age of easy recording and publication), such that he was disinclined to try it again?

Ambition?  You swallow that stuff because you're a junior MP and he's tacitly threatening to kill your career in its infancy?  I see the argument, but I don't buy it.  If you are a really junior MP - say, first term - but you win a carefully-chosen battle with someone like that, there's nothing but long-term kudos coming your way.  Nobody was going to make you a cabinet minister next week anyway.  We're back in Sadiq-Khan-bullies-Cressida-Dick territory: how's it possible? 

Any thoughts on this distressing facet of human existence?



dearieme said...

I don't think we should let our cabinet members be chosen by civil servants who whine to the press.

That may be more important than a bit of shitbaggery directed at the bureaucratic classes.

Whining to the PM, though, sounds reasonable.

I do get the impression that some of them are being a bit precious, but then quotations alone don't represent all of an exchange. You'd have to know how much menace was imparted and how often.

I can think of a couple of occasions I was disappointed in the performance of research students, and a little cross, but at least I said "How did we miss that point?" not "How did you miss that point?"

If a junior colleague is useless you should sack him rather than insult him. If he's not useless then try to direct his efforts better. That's probably what you're being paid to do anyway.

jim said...

TBH I don't much care how beastly ministers are to their underlings. Lie down with dogs, you get fleas. If you don't like fleas get another job.

So who is going to work with/for an over entitled dork - or 'particular, not difficult' minister (in the Markle manner)?

Money, enough can make some folk stomach anything. But what about Civil Servants, why should they have to be ordered about to do stupid things and conceal those things by an over entitled dork - sorry particular not difficult minister.

Simples, filter the minister through several layers of blanket. To be changed every few days with a new colour/texture/shape. So the minister can never get used to the interface to the outside world. Up to and beyond throwing toys out of pram. Not as if ministers are doing anything useful.

Or a padded room in the parliamentary cellars. The minister and the objector (or objector's champion), two 2 foot iron bars and 20 minutes to sort it out. No, ministers do not get champions, they sort their own s**t.

Anonymous said...

Your solution brings a new meaning to the "whips office" Jim.

Caeser Hēméra said...

@ND - perhaps a read of the lyrics of the moderately popular beat combo, Bowling for Soup, and their song "High School Never Ends"...

I tend to find people from all walks want a fairly quiet life, until they absolutely must make it noisy, and a bit of browbeating rarely meets the bar. It gets filed away for when a bit of revenge is available, where it gets gleefully traded in.

As a society we've also moved away from some minor violence being regarded as an acceptable short cut, so bullies tend to get away with it for longer, whereas back in the last century they could expect to go home from a post-work pint with anything from a redesigned nose to an anticipated pricey dental bill.

The days where violence was a last resort, and, if it wasn't, you obviously didn't do enough of it, only exist in the lower and upper reaches of society.

The consequence being that such problems get to fester, and grudges build up, although I suspect social media feeds in to that too.

dearieme said...

Aha! A politician is (reasonably) frank about a dud civil servant.

Anonymous said...

Let's call it as. Those who seek political life, in the main, are useless and wouldn't survive elsewhere. Those that are capable, are hobbled by the incompetents around them.

Just look at the dogs dinner Sunak/Hunt are about to release today. It's a business school approach. Get all the bad stuff out in your honeymoon period and hope it will get better later on. Clearly they are going to try to get as much cash together for 2024 so they can "cut taxes" as they have solved the problem. (Home many times have CEO's done this)?

Problem is that a) the UK is not a business b)peoples' lives are at risk from cuts in services and c) the state's delivery mechanism is broken.

It will be a shit show with bullying as a minor distraction.

dearieme said...

"peoples' lives are at risk from cuts in services"

Strangely almost no one seemed much concerned with that in 2020 when people queued at the roadside to bang their saucepans for the angelic nurses who were making videos of themselves dancing in the empty hospital corridors.

Sobers said...

"Strangely almost no one seemed much concerned with that in 2020 when people queued at the roadside to bang their saucepans for the angelic nurses who were making videos of themselves dancing in the empty hospital corridors."

The country was seized by a sort of mass hysteria, and as the saying goes, men go mad in crowds and come to their senses one by one. And when they do, they don't want to be reminded of their erstwhile insanity. So they stick the whole episode way to the back of their mind and pretend it never happened. Denial is not just a river in Africa.

As a person who stood outside the hysteria and saw it for what it was, it reminded me very much of the state of the country in 1997 after the death of Diana. A large proportion of the public went stark staring bonkers then too, and I felt like a fish out of water during all that madness as well.