Posts Tagged ‘Gordon Brown’

Leaders, Prime Ministers and the Next Generation

A couple of first nights have grabbed my attention in the last few days, and both of them have presented interesting conundrums to consider.

The first is the production of Yes, Prime Minister that has just transferred to the West End. It’s a great show; very funny, very well acted and rather more radical than one would have expected from a comedy institution that makes it to the stage 20-odd years after its heyday. Buy a seat now! Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

Post-Election Stuntwatch: Wrestling for Control

The failure of anyone to take meaningful control of the country in the wake of the General Election says a great deal about the hype that the media work up as a cappuccino froth of sound bites. It felt like going to a bad movie – the trailer was exceptional but the movie itself is overlong and a terrible letdown.

We may have had debates, but the analogue TV hype didn’t change voters’ hearts. We may have seen an upsurge of the digital agenda, but Twitter and the new transparency still doesn’t reach the soul of the country, doesn’t reach the grassroots. The election has forced us to question the people pulling the strings. Read the rest of this entry »

Election Stuntwatch: Gordon’s Gaffe on Tape

Finagle’s Law of Dynamic Negatives states that ‘anything that can go wrong, will—at the worst possible moment!’.

From now on, I suspect, any political instance of this law in action will be known as the ‘Brown Variant’, after unguarded remarks about a woman he had just spoken to on a walkabout were broadcast to the world. He condemned Gillian Duffy as a ‘bigot’ into a radio mic he didn’t realise was still live.

Unsurprisingly, the press have pounced. What is surprising is that this is the first serious gaffe on any side in a flawless, highly polished election campaign. 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 »

Election Stuntwatch: The Leadership Debate

We’re living in what Seth Godden calls “the century of ideas diffusion”. Last night’s historic TV debate was launched with a weight of expectation as to how it might change this perception. If it did, it was mostly for the political classes.

The debate was carefully, rigorously planned as an attempt to revivify politics, seen as a necessity now that all trust has been leeched away from politics and politicians. But if the people behind its gaffe-free polish thought that this would help re-engage the electorate, who have been drifting away slowly but surely for years, they were wrong.

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 »

Celebrity and the Dying Art of Debate

I took part in a debate at the University of Westminster last night alongside that wily old fox Max Clifford (the second time I’ve shared a stage with him – it always makes for an interesting experience) and others, discussing Celebrity Brands: Desire, Dollars and Danger?

It was a rather curious and disappointing night; most of the questions from the floor were from people seeking insight via anecdote and I found myself missing the grillings I got from wannabe journalists 15 years ago about the nature of PR. The media has changed, without doubt – celebrity has come to be a sop they use to send us to sleep easily at night, a sort of weak-horlicks fairytale with all the calories and morals removed. Read the rest of this entry »

Poster Apocalypse

A week is a long time in politics, so six months equates to an eternity. Just ask David Cameron who, six months ago, looked to be a shoe-in for the next Prime Minister.

I’ve been up in the smoke all week and the conversation, from left and right, is dominated by the possibility that the Tories might not win the election. It’s a simple case of making a couple of mistakes and watching confidence seep away. And the ill-advised Tory poster campaign, featuring an airbrushed David Cameron, is not so much a mistake as it is a PR disaster. Read the rest of this entry »

Clinton, Copenhagen, Afghanistan, Suppression and the X Factor

The suppression of information takes many guises, I’m beginning to realise. Many guises, but at the heart, the old ways of doing things still rule. Someone pulls strings and the neck of the bag tightens.

Take, for a start, Hillary’s Secret War, a book detailing the ways in which a rightwing think-tank’s output on the internet was allegedly suppressed by Hillary Clinton during the Clinton regime, which has just been brought to my attention. According to the author, a Richard Poe, Clinton protected her husband’s regime rigorously. “Hillary’s attack machine bullied,” he writes, “blackmailed, terrorized, and intimidated every serious investigator, from journalists to federal prosecutors and independent counsel, until they simply gave up. In many cases, Hillary’s operatives carried out these attacks openly and in full sight of major media. No one blew the whistle. No one cried foul. No one stopped her.”

Poe describes himself as part of ‘the New Underground’: “By the New Underground, I mean the growing network of dissident journalists on cable TV, talk radio, and the Internet. In the course of our labors, we stumble, now and then, upon what Patrick Henry might have called ‘painful truths’.”

The book came out in 2004, but – whether or not you subscribe to Poe’s political leanings – his description of the ways in which information is suppressed rings true enough. There are many ways of suppressing – and getting out – a story. Only this morning I was reading Guido Fawkes’ Twitter feed, which suggested that the MOD were attempting to suppress footage of troops in Afghanistan refusing to shake the hand of Gordon Brown – shortly afterwards, he wrote that a source had confirmed the existence of footage and he was trying to acquire it. This is the New Underground in action – although Poe ascribes it to a rightwing think-tank, it is much more a bipartisan group of journalists and bloggers who won’t let anything lie in the face of suppression.

What, then, of Copenhagen? The internet is fascinated with the ongoing situation around the Climate Change Conference and is awash with information and misinformation. The net coverage is an ongoing fight between painful truths and distractions. The leaking of the East Anglian stats has given all concerned a personal wire service to the onslaught of information in all its variant states of truthfulness.

What many fail to understand is that the format is usually the winner. However many gatekeepers Hillary Clinton is alleged to have set up for the web, however often the MOD try and hide the fact that the troops don’t like an unpopular leader, however much obfuscation, argument and endless counter-argument surrounds Climate Change, the internet – that most flexible of formats – will always win through.

You just have to look at the X Factor for proof. It’s not Joe McElderry who’s won the X Factor, it’s the format. It’s Simon Cowell, who owns the format. The only difference between the X Factor and the internet is that the TV talent show is the sort of Mogadon for the Nation that allows people to suppress news from Copenhagen, merely because you can bury anything on page 20 or in an article on the internet if you have enough articles about tearful contestants – who’ve been slugging it out in a glitterball for the past three months – surrounding the story.