Posts Tagged ‘conservative’

Dorries’ Jungle Stunt Takes Balls

Before even gobbling down her first kangaroo gonad, Tory Nadine Dorries has unleashed a storm of criticism for her decision to appear in televisual Hades I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, with David Cameron yesterday backing her suspension from her duties as MP.  A rash of politicos have been quick to follow suit.

But let’s not be too quick to dismiss her stunt. It’s a bold move, and I applaud her bravery. As we know from her outspoken stance on abortion in 2011, Dorries’ is not a woman afraid of the limelight. Appearing in a show like this takes guts, and it is heartening to see a politician willing to take a risk, particularly in a week that has seen political paranoia ramped up to the max in the wake of Savilegate, resulting in the retrospective inquiry into the allegations of child abuse in North Wales.

She has taken advantage of an opportunity to bring her brand to a younger generation who feel disconnected with politics. Play her hand well, and she could genuinely change the way an apathetic public think about politicians, or even prompt them to think about them at all. In the jungle, she will have a space to air her views in terms the man in the street will relate to- and with 16 million watching, it is a platform not to be sniffed at. Whether the timbre of her stance on sexual politics will resonate with ordinary people remains to be seen.

It’s a high risk move. She has perhaps underestimated the power of the edit. The ultimate winners will of course be ITV, who have once again served up a compelling cast of those blinded by fame and ambition; a collection of individuals worthy of Greek tragedy. Gifts from reality TV producers are rarely what they seem and should be handled with care.

As far as Dorries goes, the proof of the pudding will lie in the eating. Will she have the personality, wit and humanity to survive and prosper in the jungle?  Or will she ultimately prove as unpalatable as a scorpion’s scrotum?

Cleggameron: How Calm is Their Coalition?

Clegg and Cameron are making a surprisingly good fist of unity thanks to the brand new and shiny PR machines behind the scenes, not to mention the PR machine that is Cleggameron. It’s working so well that even Rory Bremner admits to being unsure about how to satirise them.

I can’t help but feel a little unease at the way they present themselves, and the PR wheels running the Cleggameron image juggernaut. I wonder if this honeymoon period will last longer than the usual ones – remember Tony Blair amiably wandering down Downing Street predicting that by the time he left office, the gates Thatcher had installed to keep the terrorists out would have been removed? How ironic that seems now. Or Gordon Brown’s five minutes of popularity when he took over? Read the rest of this entry »

Election Stuntwatch: The Rise of Old Media

When I was 19, the publicist Theo Cowan – this country’s first pro celebrity PR wrangler, who created the Rank Charm School, an acting school run the Rank Film company that brought the world Roger Moore, Joan Collins, Christopher Lee, Diana Dors and more – granted me an audience in Poland Street. “Keep your clients’ feet on the ground,” he told me. “NEVER let someone believe a good review!”

This is advice that needs to be handed on to Nick Clegg, after last night’s second Leaders’ Debate. He appeared to have spent the week following his remarkable showing in the first debate positively wallowing in the good reviews. Certainly his people believed the good press enough to let Clegg give Brown and Cameron enough room to make up lost ground. That said, he survived pretty well mostly thanks to the MPs’ expenses scandal allowing too many people to see the puppet strings in this campaign. Read the rest of this entry »

Political Stuntwatch: General Election 2010

Given that an election tends to exist in a crowded little bubble all of its own and that there are now ever more ways of competing for attention, with iPhone apps, Twitter feeds, Facebook pages and the like being utilised by every politico going, journalists are going to have a harder time than ever getting to the heart of the matter – policy – and the election is likely to be run on stunts.

We’ve already had one hysterical moment, with David Cameron turning in a karaoke version of Obama when he rolled up his sleeves yesterday. He may have been trying to look hip, but looked more like the sort of embarrassing school teacher who apes trends remorselessly – two years after they’ve come off the boil. Unlike embarrassing teachers, Cameron made the news. Read the rest of this entry »

Election! The End of the Phony War

There have been weeks and weeks of phony electioneering and, finally, this morning Gordon Brown has told the world what we already knew – the election will be on 6th May.

From the negative electioneering of mashed up, satirical posters, to the dusting down of the old Saatchi creative team – to deliver up what Cameron’s mob hope to be a coup de gras to Labour (as was done under Thatcher) – its been a long and spectacularly phoney war; one that has, alarmingly, only focused on the media process. Read the rest of this entry »

Who is Pulling Nick Griffin’s PR Strings?

The BBC have, without doubt, handed Nick Griffin and the BNP a potential PR coup by allowing him to appear on Question Time. It is very likely that Griffin will be working desperately hard to avoid belching racist bile, especially as the programme surrounds him – in the interests of the BBC’s “central principle of impartiality” – with Jack Straw (Jewish ancestry and, appropriately, Labour’s Justice secretary), Lady Warsi (Muslim Conservative peer), the critic Bonnie Greer (African American) and token Lib Dem Chris Huhne.

Griffin’s PR nous comes hard earned – the BNP’s Director of Publicity, Mark Collett, has had his share of run-ins with the television, having been caught on camera during Channel 4’s Young, Nazi, and Proud documentary in 2002 declaring his admiration for Adolf Hitler and calling homosexuals “AIDS monkeys” on Russell Brand’s Re:Brand show in the same year. Collett is highly unlikely to want Griffin to fall into the same trap, despite the strong likelihood that he will be mercilessly provoked.

So should we allow a thug in a well-cut suit on the TV to attempt to seduce the masses? Is Griffin likely to raise his status to that of statesman in the circumstances? Prohibition would, I suspect, be more likely to fan the flames of disaffection among voters – who have much to be disaffected about at the moment, hence the 6% who voted BNP in the European elections – and the last thing most people, let alone most politicians, want is to allow them more chances to snare votes.

The hope, then, is that Griffin will succumb to anger and show his dark side, which has been slathered in nice suits and careful spin for the last few years. Gordon Brown has gone on record this morning to say that: “it will be a good opportunity to expose what [the BNP] are about”. Russell Brand has said it with more style in The Sun. According to Brand it will help to let the BNP “gurgle up their chuckle-brained hate-broth” on Question Time. “The right thinking people of the Earth are on relatively safe ground when it comes to the ‘war of words’ with televised bigots,” he adds.

A few years ago Griffin told a meeting of the American Friends of the BNP (which included the then leader of the Ku Klux Klan) that: “Once we’re in a position where we control the British broadcasting media, then perhaps one day the British people might change their mind and say, ‘yes, every last [immigrant] must go’. But if you hold that out as your sole aim to start with, you’re not going to get anywhere. So, instead of talking about racial purity, we talk about identity.”

With this in mind, I think that Michael Corleone’s advice in The Godfather Part 2 – “Keep you friends close, but your enemies closer” – is the best bet. Let’s keep Griffin and his hateful, hate-full party close and hope that they deliver a horse’s head to their own bed, making it clear just how appalling their views, which they keep simmering under the veneer of careful PR, really are.

Popularity Politics

Accused of not letting slip any details of policies that would be employed should they form the next Government, the Tories came out in surprisingly brave style yesterday, thanks to George Osborne.

He may have the charisma of a financial director of a small engineering firm in Colchester, but Osborne has been the boldest politician on the block this conference season, playing on the Tories’ current popularity to roll out plans for an austere Britain should the Tories come to power.

“After a year in which trust in parliament has been rocked to the foundations, we know that politics must change forever,” he told the Tory faithful. Then, in a definite nod to both the careful PR husbandry of Andy Coulson, the new Cardinal Richelieu of spin, and the needs of the public, he added: ‘We have to be open and transparent with the people we serve.”

It’s a risk, especially for a Tory party riding its first wave of media support in a long time. Not so long ago the Tories would have been very aware of the media looking carefully at the effect on the public of a group of old Etonians asking country to tighten its belt. But with the Sun on their side, this is the first conference that they are feeling confident at – and Osborne has taken a gamble by asking everyone but the poorest Briton to do exactly that to make sure the country gets out of the huge deficit.

Of course, anyone even paying lip-service to transparency in politics at the moment is likely to do well, however unlikely it is that the transparency will last long after power’s been achieved. Osborne, however, knows full well that he is not likely to end up as unpopular as Gordon Brown, whatever happens. We may have seen huge applause for the prime minister and his wife at the Labour conference last week, but a huge percentage of the people clapping, particularly the Balls and Darlings, are likely to have a dagger with Brown’s name on it concealed about their person. They’re all PR savvy enough to not want to be associated with the sinking of Labour and will be working out ways of leaving Gordon holding the baby.

Talking of hidden daggers, I was at the Pride of Britain awards last night and had the pleasure of watching the popular Piers Morgan working the room with ease, wit and a certain amount of grace. He and his partner, Celia Walden, make a very likeable pair – she’s his Michelle Obama.

I fell to wondering what this popularity could mean for his position in the Simon Cowell empire. Piers is getting to be much more popular than he used to be; will Cowell – the alpha male of the X Factory– allow someone on one of his shows to be this genuinely liked?

It’s time to be vigilant – this has all the makings of an epic off-screen soap opera that could run and run. Keep your eyes peeled for the next thrilling installment, coming soon!

Andy Coulson: Tapping in to the Tories

As the former editor of the News of the World turned PR man for David Cameron, Andy Coulson’s appearance before the House of Commons culture, media and sport select committee the other day was always likely to be difficult – this is a high-pressure enquiry into the phone hacking scandal.

His performance was a masterstroke, however – a blend of careful honesty and equally careful image management. Coulson came across as forthright and honest – and he looked relaxed in a suit that could easily have graced the pages of GQ. Importantly, he did not battle the MPs he was facing but was carefully compliant.

There’s no doubt that he knows not to make himself the story – he kept his personality in the background and presented the facts as he saw them. It was abundantly clear, from this appearance, that he has been a major influence on the Tory front bench and on David Cameron in particular. Watching him conducting himself told us much about how he is working with the Tories.

He was as impressive as Alastair Campbell used to be in the same role for Tony Blair, although he cuts a very different dash from Campbell. Where Campbell was more of a Nobby Stiles, Coulson comes across as something of a Cardinal Richelieu, albeit a Richelieu who is prepared to admit his mistakes, which is more than can be said for some MPs.

But would he rather be the PR man for a likely future Prime Minister or to have remained in the editor’s chair at the News of the World? He fell on his sword for the sake of the Murdoch empire in 2007 after the phone tapping scandal involving rogue agents, having carefully built a career in journalism. I would imagine that there’s still a sense of loss about that lurking in the carefully polished depths.

At a time when Sunday newspapers are under ever greater pressure to land scoops – whatever the method and consequence – I imagine Coulson’s safe with the Tories for now, especially since he handled himself so effectively under pressure in front of the Commons select committee and given that his media management of the Tories has, on the whole, been equally effective. He certainly proved he’s an asset to David Cameron in front of the select committee and despite calls for his resignation, I would suggest that he’s not likely to leave this job at present.