This week’s Tony and Cherie interview in the Sun shows just why Blair is the PR star performer of this election while Howard and Kennedy are also-rans
In a stunning publicity coup Britain’s CEO and his wife Cherie’s “first ever joint interview” straddled the Sun yesterday with a combination of finesse and brutishness the PR world can only gaze at with awe.
Backed up this morning by the Daily Mirror’s handwritten list of pledges signed by Tony himself, and you’re looking at press engineering by New Labour on a scale we’ve never seen before. As if Freddie Flintoff had been held back until the last ball of the final over, then loosed to dispatch a fiendishly accurate full toss down the wicket to demolish any possible opposition. Behold the superstunt performed with the air of the very highest, positively corporate, skill.
This coup de grace, delivered in such a forthright manner, may raise eyebrows about its taste. But from a public relations standpoint it simply proves that the prime minister and his team have a brilliant grasp of what makes voters engage. This is why he is the PR star performer while Michael Howard and Charles Kennedy are also-rans.
If at times ruthless, then so be it. Blair has blood on his hands; he’s sent men to their deaths, as prime ministers do, but he’s learned to deal with it. David Beckham may have celebrity status and a genius for his sport, but he and his hapless minders remain incapable of coping with anything unspherical and he certainly doesn’t have the powers of “personality” to back up his fame.
The Beckhams’ actions are driven mainly by fear and a desperate attempt to live up to the image their minders have bestowed on them. With Blair it’s the other way around. His ease, charm and flair when the cameras are turning have been his making. There seems no limit to how far he’ll go to offer every fragment of himself to the electorate. It’s as if he’s said, “You want me? You can have me!” and then invited the tabloid monkeys right up to the throne for free peanuts.
Opening up his heart in classic Mills & Boon manner, and going along with smutty jokes in the Sun, are natural extensions of the man, and show him in a way that Michael “Vampire” Howard simply wouldn’t have been able to pull off, however often he referred to his refugee parents and poverty-struck upbringing. To Blair’s Harry Potter, Howard’s a mere Muggle.
Today’s world statesmen and corporate leaders must combine all the qualities of a film star, an entrepreneur and a press baron rolled into one. It always helps if they have the what we PR folk call the “stuff”.
Blair, the canny Anglo-Scottish public schoolboy, Oxford graduate and barrister, has it in abundance. He finds his way through any medium from the tabloids to the telly to the intellectual journals with an effortlessness I have to admire. While the Express is perfectly justified in describing the Sun interview as “toe-curling”, it remains an extraordinary piece of risk-taking.
In the glow of the aftermath, as a satiated Tony and Cherie collapse in bed at No 10 over a Woodbine and a cuppa, Dave Hill, Alastair Campbell and all the other gnomes can pat themselves on the back in the sure knowledge that the Great Spin has spun to a perfect conclusion and they can put their tools back in the box – at least until Gordon needs them next.