Political Spin Doctors Prescribe the Wrong Medicine

by Charlie_East_West on September 24, 2013

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‘Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some hire public relations officers,” – American social historian, Daniel J Boorstin.

Damian McBride continues his publicity campaign on his book, Power Trip, which gives a warts and all account of his time at the Treasury working as Gordon Brown’s PR henchman. His mea culpa crusade is now taking him through the lucrative fields of the Daily Mail and Labour Party Conference. The publicity is being helped along by the unedifying side-show of Alastair Campbell crawling out from behind the laptop and microphone to openly trash McBride’s Daily Mail sell-out.

Alastair Campbell consistently makes a bad situation much worse. Instead of letting sleeping dogs lie, he just cannot resist an argument, and as such, he pours fuel on the fire. As a so-called PR and communications guru – he should know better. As any good PR flunky will tell you, the PR adviser should never ever become the story. As my old boss Alan Parker, owner of PR consultancy Brunswick, the most influential PR exponent over the last 20 years, and a man who knows his PR onions, once said, “it is bad manners to get between the client and the footlights.” – Exactly. Both McBride and Campbell have let their greed, ego and bad manners get in front of the Labour Party. If they were really the PR behemoths that they like to think they were/are – then they should remain stoic and discrete. Campbell, in particular, just cannot help himself – he has always enjoyed the footlights way too much.

Personally, I think the whole spat is a massive storm in a teacup. It is a politico spod / chattering class story. The majority of the country do not give a flying fuck about ex-political spin doctors. This was shown through the poor sales of Alastair Campbell’s 2007 publication of The Blair Years, and will no doubt be shown through poor sales of McBride’s new book.

A lot of Labour supporters are screaming blue murder about the timing of McBride’s book. But, the fact is that most political memoirs are published to coincide with party conferences. No shit, Sherlock. It is all about maximising sales. Authors publish books when they think they will get most publicity and most sales. It would be strange not to do this. It is a simple fact of life.

Ultimately, McBride can do what he wants. If he wants to try and cash in on his time with Gordon Brown – then let him. But, if Labour want to restrict any collateral damage from McBride’s book, then they are seriously going about it in the wrong way. Silence is golden – even within the dark arts of PR.

However, it is a sad reflection of our politics today that the self-styled political masters of the universe are often those outside of the main arena. Since the Blair/New Labour era, our political spin doctors have often become the story, instead of quietly shaping the story. The spin doctors are no longer prescribing the communication medicine, they are causing the illness to spread.

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