I was on the Today programme at 8.40 this morning, with Phil Hall from PHA Media, discussing Simon Lewis’s new role as director of communications for Gordon Brown and how he might turn Brown’s premiership around. A challenging role, as Phil and I agreed, especially given that he has to follow in the footsteps of Tony Blair’s cabal of effortless communicators.
Gordon Brown, we suggested, needs Simon Lewis to create a compelling narrative, pushing Brown into a position of leadership rather than the reactive PM we’ve seen in the press. He needs to communicate key policies.
The same needs to happen with Fred Goodwin. Throughout the saga, Sir Fred has been right legally. However, his biggest error has been failure to accept that his legal rights were, in the eyes of the world, wrong. While the banks were rolling in clover, the cash seemed justified, but when it went wrong he should have made some concessions to the public mood.
Other bankers comprehend that remorse requires addressing the issue head on. Andy Hornby, former chief executive of HBOS, waived his rights to severance pay and to a massive pension. As such, he is being given a second chance at Alliance Boots.
Phil Hall knows about challenging clients – he has Fred ‘The Shred’ Goodwin on his books. Phil wryly acknowledged on the show that rehabilitating Fred Goodwin is “certainly a challenge”. But it’s one he seems to be rising to, if you look at recent news on Goodwin.
By agreeing to the £200,000 a year reduction in his pension payments, Sir Fred is perhaps showing that something like a change in his thinking is coming. Goodwin certainly seems to taking control of the situation at last and not letting the media dictate the agenda. Perhaps it’s all too little too late, but it certainly seems that Phil is brewing up a compelling narrative for Fred Goodwin at a time when there are bigger financial scandals consuming the public’s attention. If so, Phil deserves a slap on the back for his canny sense of timing.
All that remains to be seen is whether Simon Lewis can begin to do the same for Gordon Brown.
To listen again to the broadcast, click here and scroll down to 8.40 a.m.