Nonprofit Newswire | Bully on Downing?

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February 23, 2010; Time | We’ve been monitoring the unusual developments surrounding the purportedly “bullying” behavior of the British PM, Gordon Brown. According to Time magazine, a few books recently published in the UK described Brown as prone to “volcanic rages,” “lobbing mobile phones,” and “choice epithets.” In a weird twist, an anti-bullying charity that runs a national helpline reported getting complaints from 10 Downing Street. But low and behold, the charity seems to be a bit close to PM Brown’s opponents in the Conservative Party, which hopes to oust the Labor government in the upcoming elections. According to the Wall Street Journal, the charity in question suffered a few board resignations protesting its violation of the confidentiality of callers to its hotline, suffered criticisms when its links to Conservative Party members became known, and then the executive director of the charity modified her public statements regarding her contacts with the Conservatives and the nature of the call or calls she got about the PM’s bullying. For those of us who have long monitored the relationships of charities and government, the Brown bullying brush-up reminds us of three things: (1) If you want to be believable as politically nonpartisan, having close connections to politicians from one party or another won’t cut it; (2) if you want to be believed as a legitimate charity in a particular field, violating basic standards of behavior (such as violating the confidentiality of callers to a hotline) won’t cut it; and (3) if you want to be credible in general, backtracking on and modifying your story in the wake of criticism won’t cut it either. We don’t believe in bullying here at the Nonprofit Quarterly, nor have we been privy to the PM’s tantrums. But this purported anti-bullying charity’s jumping in over second- and third-hand reports of PM Brown’s behavior strikes us as motivated by as much political animus toward the hapless Labor leader as concern about his schoolyard bullying.—Rick Cohen