David Blackburn

How should the Tories respond to the Rawnsley allegations?

How should the Tories respond to the Rawnsley allegations?
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As James predicted last night, the ‘Bully boy Brown’ story is now at full steam and will speed on as phone-ins discuss bullying in the workplace. The National Bullying Helpline’s intervention, ethically dubious in view of the charity’s supposed confidentiality, has negated Labour’s damage limitation strategy. Both Peter Mandelson’s line that Brown is a passionate and demanding man and the PR campaign to soften Brown’s image have been blown clear out of the water. Brown has made significant progress recently: David Cameron’s personal ratings have halved since September. That brief resurgence will be reversed as this story rolls. The Sun’s hot-headed frontpage says it all.  

Now is the time for a Conservative counter-attack. They will not get a better opportunity to grind the Prime Minister into the dirt, nor, I suspect, will sections of the public be so eager to see Brown humbled. The Tories must do everything to keep this story in motion without detracting from the spectacle of Brown and his followers being outgunned by the media onslaught.

David Cameron needs to eschew negative campaigning himself, but someone has to dirty their hands. The Tories should avoid obvious claims about Brown's suitability for the job and simply ask direct questions about the facts, making Brown look shifty if he does not answer them. A shadow minister should refer to these issues on news programmes for the next couple of days; a backbencher should ask the Prime Minister about the veracity of Rawnsley’s sources at PMQs. Wire the media with small doses of innocuous looking poison because bullying could be to be Brown what WMD were to Blair - public trust is hard to obtain and easy to lose.