BRITISH Prime Minister Gordon Brown fought back against claims he terrified staff with his volcanic temper in book extracts which posed a new threat to his general election prospects.
A book by political journalist Andrew Rawnsley claims Brown grabbed one staff member by the jacket lapels and shouted at him, punched the back of a car seat after receiving bad news and repeatedly swore at advisors.
The atmosphere became so bad the head of the civil service, Gus O’Donnell, gave Brown a “pep talk”, telling him: “This is no way to get things done,” according to extracts published by the Observer newspaper.
Downing Street said the allegations are “malicious” and “totally without foundation”, while Brown insisted any anger was directed at himself.
“If I get angry I get angry with myself,” he told Channel 4 television on Saturday.
“Let me just say, absolutely clearly: I have never, never hit anybody in my life.”
Colleagues have also rallied to support Brown, whose party is some way behind David Cameron’s main opposition Conservatives in opinion polls.
Business Secretary Peter Mandelson, his effective deputy, said the picture painted by Rawnsley was “not one I recognise”.
“I don’t think he so much bullies people as is very demanding of people, he’s demanding of himself,” Mandelson told BBC television.
“There’s a degree of impatience about the man but what would you like, some kind of shrinking violet at the helm of the government?”
The revelations came the day after Brown launched what party officials called “Operation Fightback” ahead of a general election expected on May 6.
Even though the poll has not been formally called, unofficial electioneering has already got under way. The poll must be held by June 3 at the latest.
Brown, who is frequently accused of lacking charisma, has tried to show a more sensitive side in public in recent weeks, notably in a primetime television interview last week when he discussed the death of his baby daughter in 2001 and his relationship with wife Sarah.
A Sunday Times/You Gov opinion suggested those efforts had borne fruit, with Labour closing the gap on the Conservatives. It gave the Tories 39% support, down one, and Labour 33%, up two.
The book extracts told how after Brown punched the car seat the protection officer in the seat “flinched with shock” and “the aide sitting next to Brown... cowered because he feared that the prime minister was about to hit him in the face”, The Observer added.
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