What makes a bully?

I have been known in the past as being abrupt, direct, curt, downright rude or even just a plain nasty b*****d and I would happily accept all of those descriptions because I don’t have the time or the patience to use two sentences when two words will convey the message as well.

But one epithet I will never accept is “bully”.

In my entire career I have worked with people at times who I would describe as unpleasant, unlikeable and at least three utter tw*ts, but only one that I would classify as a nasty piece of work – a bona fide bully – and I’m definitely nothing like them.

There is a huge difference between someone who doesn’t give a damn about their own popularity as long as the job gets done and a harridan (I cover both sexes with that word as there doesn’t appear to be a male equivalent) who fills a hole in their own pathetic life by causing discomfort and instilling fear in others.

Home Secretary Priti Patel would appear to tick all of the boxes above and I can’t see much point in getting an independent report into her conduct if it’s going to be completely disregarded by the Prime Minister, especially when the Ministerial Code of Conduct was written by none other than Boris Johnson himself.

Any previous prime minister would have given her a straight choice of resigning or being unceremoniously sacked, if only to bring a welcome end to the matter – job done, move on.

That Boris hasn’t jettisoned her, even going as far as to tweet that cabinet colleagues need to “form a square” to protect “the Pritster” may seem on the face of it like loyalty, albeit misguided, but the cynic in me thinks it makes a handy distraction to the approaching deadline for a deal with the EU and the soap opera machinations going on behind the door of Number 10 (Go Team Carrie!)

Of course, it’s easy to hide behind the suggestion that men especially are intimidated by strong women and that we’re all grown ups so get on with it, but regardless of gender, no one should be in terror of going to work because of how they are being treated.

However, let’s not lose track here. There are far more pressing matters to be addressed than whether Priti Patel shouts and swears at civil servants.

I’m not excusing it, but being a bully, if she actually is one, is the very least of the country’s problems or her considerable shortcomings as a government minister.

Empty words that hit the target every time

I was asked last week if there are any words or phrases that wind me up (what an exciting lockdown life my girlfriend and I lead) and my immediate answer was “moving forward” and “synergy”.

This is management-speak chapter one – lazy, meaningless buzzwords that invariably mean someone is about to lose their job and this is the quickest way to get it over with.

I’ve heard these words a few times and I’ve had to witness other people on the receiving end. They are used to dehumanise a process that is as human as it gets along with the other nonsensical “it’s the post that is becoming redundant, it’s not a reflection on you”.

Over four decades in this profession I have managed to avoid insulting people’s intelligence by never using these words and I take great comfort from knowing that I will never need to hear them again.

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Quote of the week: Mary from Giles and Mary on Gogglebox watching I’m a Celebrity… sees Shane Richie in the opening credits and asks: “Who’s that – is he in The Pogues?”

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Stupid TV quiz answer of the week:

For goodness sake!

Q: Skopje is the capital of which landlocked country in the Balkan Peninsula?

A: Finland?

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Edward Case

Columnist