Observer associate editor Andrew Rawnsley is today facing fresh accusations that some of his reports concerning the angry behaviour of Prime Minister Gordon Brown are untrue.
In Rawnsley’s book The End of the Party, extracts from which were published in the Observer on Sunday, he described how the Prime Minister lost his temper over a press story claiming that his speeches had lifted phrases used by US politicians.
Rawnsley wrote: ‘Brown went berserk with Bob Shrum, whose long friendship did not protect the American from a ferocious blast of Brown’s temper. ‘How could you do this to me, Bob?’ Brown screamed at a shaking Shrum. ‘How could you fucking do this to me?'”
The US political advisor told CNN: “The Prime Minister did not ‘scream’ at me, blame me or direct a profanity at me. The author who has now written this made no effort to check it with me. I would have told him it was false.”
Rawnsley responded to the US broadcaster telling CNN: “I am entirely satisfied that the sources for the episode involving Mr Shrum are impeccable and the account in the book is accurate.”
The Rawnsley book also states that cabinet secretary Gus O’Donnell became personally concerned about Brown’s treatment of Downing Street staff, particularly an incident involving the “garden girls”, the staff who work at the Downing Street typing pool which overlooks the garden.
Rawnsley wrote: “Sir Gus O’Donnell was becoming increasingly anxious about the Prime Minister’s behaviour. The Cabinet Secretary was so concerned about the garden girl episode that he made his own inquiries into it.”
But Brown told The Economist magazine: “The cabinet secretary has made it clear that he’s had no inquiries, there’s been no reprimand, there’s been no private message to me… (The) story is completely wrong.”
A spokesman for the PM said: “The cabinet secretary would like to make clear that he has never raised concerns with the Prime Minister about him acting in a bullying or intimidatory manner in relation to No 10 staff, let alone giving him any sort of verbal warning.”
However Rawnsley told Newsnight yesterday: “What they have not denied on behalf of the cabinet secretary is that he had a conversation with the Prime Minister about his behaviour… one person’s idea of a verbal warning could be another person’s private word.”