In 1994 I got a job at a newly opened supermarket on the outskirts of Derby (I'll refrain from naming the firm - we live in litigious times). The wages were utterly shit (£2.21/hour starting rate for 17 years olds, going up to a whopping £2.63 when I turned 18), the company was crap, working hours long and hard, and the store management were awful. They were always looking for more reasons to find fault, bully and intimidate. And it was young folk and women who especially got it in the neck.
This more than anything else taught me that class mattered. If you have to work for a wage, you place yourself on the pain of dismissal at the mercy of those who manage your labour. Now if that isn't a recipe for abusive and exploitative relationships, I don't know what is.
Thanks to these experiences, even just thinking about workplace bullying makes me angry. So what do I make of the accusations made by a dodgy-looking "charity" that claim Gordon Brown has bullied prime ministerial office staff?
Well, they piss me off. Not because the credibility of the National Bullying Helpline is seriously suspect. Nor because the Tories, who are looking to score off a cheap attack, conveniently and hypocritically forget a bullying scandal of their own. And as heartily sick as I am of the personalist and, yes, bullying attacks on the person of Gordon Brown, that hasn't worked me up.
What has is how workplace bullying is being used as a football in the daily kickabout of pre-election politics. If, for instance the Tories gave two shits about it at the very least we're entitled to a serious examination of the link between workplace bullying, macho management and the erosion of workers' rights that took place under their watch. Any chance of that? Not on your nelly.
And before any Labour readers start feeling smug, it is an uncomfortable truth that this government has done little to redress the situation. Indeed, Brown has presided over far more serious cases of bullying the right and the media are more than happy to cheerlead. That's to name but two.
That's the real scandal here, not some half-baked accusations cynically released to damage Labour's election campaign.