PROFILE: Stephan Shakespeare, adviser to Lord Archer - Taking arms against a sea of PR troubles. Stephan Shakespeare’s role is to save Lord Archer from outrageous fortune

According to a recent PR Week column the toughest jobs in PR are in privatised utilities and local government. That was, of course, before Stephan Shakespeare appeared on our television screens to defend the lies told by Lord Archer, the now ex-Tory mayoral candidate, in concocting a false alibi around the 1987 Daily Star libel case he won.

According to a recent PR Week column the toughest jobs in PR are in

privatised utilities and local government. That was, of course, before

Stephan Shakespeare appeared on our television screens to defend the

lies told by Lord Archer, the now ex-Tory mayoral candidate, in

concocting a false alibi around the 1987 Daily Star libel case he

won.



The jury is still out on whether the German-born, boarding

school-educated Shakespeare made a decent fist of it. Lord Archer told

PR Week: ’As I am no longer to be mayor, London has lost a superb chief

of staff.’



Conor Ryan, press spokesman for Frank Dobson, the man backed by the

Labour leadership to win the party’s London mayor nomination, says

Shakespeare had no choice but to ’brazen it out’.



Charles Lewington, erstwhile Tory communications director, now running

PR consultancy Media Strategy, thinks Shakespeare was dealt a bad hand,

but he played it well. ’In a world where there appears to be little

loyalty, people have great admiration for those who stick with their

friends,’ Lewington says.



The first indication of the close bond between Archer and Shakespeare

comes from the Andy Warhol originals which dominate the lounge of

Shakespeare’s Barbican flat. Archer is a renowned art collector, and

owns the Peter Gwyther Gallery in Mayfair, of which Shakespeare is

director. They first met as Shakespeare stood for the Tories in

Colchester in the 1997 general election. Considered unlikely to win,

Shakespeare asked the populist Archer to come and help. This Archer did,

and Shakespeare came second on a smaller swing to Labour than the

national average.



Shakespeare, 42, spent most of his working life in education before

stumbling into public affairs. He taught English after graduating from

Oxford in 1979, eventually becoming headmaster of a Los Angeles

secondary school.



Returning to the UK to start a family, he began work in a Lambeth

comprehensive in 1988. The local education authority was boycotting

early years testing at the time and Shakespeare, outraged at the impact

this would have on the children of a poor London borough, started

writing to the Daily Telegraph to complain. He contributed regularly to

both the Telegraph and the Daily Mail during John Major’s premiership,

slowly losing his academic’s cool and becoming more agitated, until in

the run-up to the 1997 poll, he quit teaching for full-time

campaigns.



Archer and Shakespeare’s second political connection came during Peter

Lilley’s campaign for the Tory leadership after the 1997 rout. Working

together for several weeks, and with Archer already thinking ahead to

the mayoralty race, he made Shakespeare his special adviser. One of

Shakespeare’s first plans was to try and stop Archer unilaterally

briefing the papers when it suited him.



Shakespeare’s media work is highly-rated by ex-colleagues. Nadhim

Zahawi, until two weeks ago operations head for the mayoral bid, says as

well as Shakespeare’s down-to-earth manner, his greatest skill is

’knowing exactly what journalists think is a story’.



Journalists obviously thought Archer admitting to the false alibi and

asking a friend to lie about it in court, was ’a story’. He is reticent

on the PR plan adopted when the News of the World broke the story of

Archer’s lies last month. ’Jeffrey was devastated and in no state to

discuss strategies,’ he says disingenuously.



The plan seemed to involve hiding Archer away and using Shakespeare to

generate public support by projecting shame, contrition and sadness in

equal measure. The alternative, he explains, would have been to line up

a list of the great and good names who privately expressed support to

Archer soon after his fall. ’That would have embarrassed them, and it

would not have been fair to use them like that,’ he says.



It may be Shakespeare is tainted with sleaze-by-association, and it is a

safe bet he will be seen as tarnished for the foreseeable future. But

Anthony Gordon-Lennox, a former television producer who ran William

Hague’s successful Tory leadership campaign before working as a

consultant on Archer’s mayoral attempt, is sure he will eventually

benefit from his recent display. ’He has proved he is loyal, he can

write and has an instinctive grasp of the media. He is the ideal PR

person,’ he says.



Shakespeare is uncertain what the future will bring. He rules out

standing for election again. He rules out a return to teaching, having

apparently grown beyond a simple concern for education policy. He has

pointedly not ruled out more media work, but remains tight-lipped on

offers he may have had or plans he may be hatching. For now, the man is

staying by his master’s side.





HIGHLIGHTS



1988: Principal of Landmark School, Los Angeles



1997: Tory general election candidate for Colchester



1997: Special adviser to Lord Archer.



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