Royal StuntWatch: How do you get serious national coverage for your chosen cause? Dress up as a comic book character
Love them or loathe them, there’s no denying that members of campaign group Fathers 4 Justice have done an award-winning job in hijacking the nation’s, if not the world’s, attention.
As a public relations coup, it ranks as one of the most successful in recent times: an audacious yet unfeasibly simply plan, quickly executed with a touch of humour and a serious message with a knock-on effect for the not entirely inconsequential matter of national security.
Batman’s crusading exploits received blanket coverage on the television and radio news bulletins yesterday, is still the main item today, and all the national newspapers gave it substantial coverage.
And while the public debate about palace security will rage for days, within the royal court, government and the police force it will rage a lot longer. It is being called the “most embarrassing breach of palace security yet”. Heads could roll.
Dressed as Batman, dissatisfied father-of two Jason Hatch scaled Buckingham Palace’s façade on Monday afternoon and spent five hours waving to all and sundry live on TV while armed police and Buckingham Palace security were powerless to act.
His sidekick Robin, AKA fellow Fathers 4 Justice member Dave Pyke, abandoned his attempt to join Batman when he was threatened with being shot. Fair enough.
Robin “got away” from the police and spent the next hour or so acting as an extremely articulate spokesman for the group, giving erudite comments about excluded fathers’ plights to the other media who had by this time descended, helicopters and all, on Buck Palace.
Diet – Weight Watchers
Discover the biggest change at Weight Watchers in years….
Great Prices on Weight Loss Products
Check out the new diet products on the market. Something for…
The Online Slimming Club
Weight loss club providing personalised diet programs,…
Dressed in black suit, cape and mask Mr Pyke did what many campaigners who partake in guerrilla-style direct action stunts never quite manage – he came across as measured, sensible and ordinary.
He stressed his group’s resolutely non-violent ethic in its campaign of civil disobedience to raise awareness of the plight of men denied access to their children.
He just appeared to be so desperate to see his kids he’d dress up like a cartoon character and get on national TV by fair means or foul. Which is more than enough to embarrass them for life.
Mr Pyke was finally tapped on the shoulder by a policeman during one of his interviews and bundled in to the back of a police van live on Sky News.
Home secretary David Blunkett didn’t seem to mind the palace intrusion so much as the fact that the incident should overshadow his speech today outlining national standards for the police.
“This is what I sometimes call sod’s law in this job, I’m afraid,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
He then went on to state the blindingly obvious – that not all security systems “worked perfectly” yesterday. Well done Sherlock.
Yesterday’s Buckingham Palace escapade is the latest in a series of high-profile stunts carried out by Fathers 4 Justice to draw attention to their campaign.
Members have chucked a purple flour bomb at Tony Blair during prime minister’s question time, sat on a crane dressed as Spider-Man holding up traffic at London’s Tower Bridge for six days, scaled the Tamar Bridge in Plymouth, occupied the offices of the Department for Constitutional Affairs and stormed the family division of the high court.
These aren’t trained PR professionals who have spent years honing their attention-grabbing skills to maximise clients’ budgets. Mr Hatch, for instance, is a painter and decorator.
Nonetheless, many members face trial for their activities during protests but, like other campaigners such as Greenpeace’s environmental warriors, they would undoubtedly say the wrath they face is worth it because their plight is now firmly implanted in the national conscience.
Mr Hatch is facing a criminal damage charge and Mr Pyke is facing one of aiding and abetting his colleague.
It isn’t all positive PR though, the group’s actions could be proof the men are irresponsible and unreasonable – and as Jon Snow pointed out in his daily email to Channel 4 News fans, “This would be a fantastic agit prop. Were it not for the atmosphere around the ’cause’. ‘Fathers for Justice’ is campaigning for fathers to have access to children in their mother’s custody. But such is the aura of misogyny, and the utter obsessiveness [of the campaign] you find yourself wondering whether ANY child should ever be exposed to their care.”