Editorial: Labour begins to show the strain

Rarely has Alastair Campbell treated the media and the British public to a more blatant example of the aggressive news management which has become his trade mark - or such a clear illustration of the difference between the business of ’spin’ and that of public relations, as most practitioners understand it - than with his ’gagging’ of outspoken critic of the NHS, Lord Winston.

Rarely has Alastair Campbell treated the media and the British

public to a more blatant example of the aggressive news management which

has become his trade mark - or such a clear illustration of the

difference between the business of ’spin’ and that of public relations,

as most practitioners understand it - than with his ’gagging’ of

outspoken critic of the NHS, Lord Winston.



None of the participants in this sorry tale have behaved particularly

well, but the problem is that while Campbell’s tactics attract ever

closer media scrutiny, there is a danger that the reputation of the PR

industry will once again get caught in the cross-fire.



As a TV celebrity and Labour peer, Winston displayed a remarkable lack

of media-savvy when faced with a seasoned journalist and a tape

recorder.



His indiscreet identification of the location and manner of the

forthcoming birth of Blair jnr was gauche, but there is many a corporate

spokesperson who has been too loquacious only to regret it when his

comments appear in print. Campbell may have successfully diverted

attention from the real issue at stake by persuading him to ’recant’ his

indiscretion, however it is only a temporary respite.



The issue of NHS funding is one PR challenge that this Government, or

any other, would find it hard to news manage their way out of. This is

not a debate that can be averted. As any crisis management specialist

knows, there comes a time when one has to face the cameras, and provide

a credible response to criticisms.



In circumstances such as these it is important to recognise what public

relations is and is not. It is not a magic panacea. It will not reduce

waiting lists or the cost of health service. For all the flurry of

publicity surrounding new concepts such as NHS Direct, with the cost of

acceptable care seemingly growing faster than the health budget, there

are fundamental problems to address. A PR campaign can only be as good

as the product you have to work with.



Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register
Already registered?
Sign in

Would you like to post a comment?

Please Sign in or register.