Why Blair must heed PR people with real nous not Demos

A new political year began this week in the worst possible way.

A new political year began this week in the worst possible way.

No, I am not thinking of the portfolio of problems represented by Messrs

Clinton and Yeltsin, the Far East’s neutered tigers, Islamic

fundamentalism or Euro-madness in embarking on a voyage of single

currency discovery which would be hazardous on a calm economic sea.

Instead, I refer to think tank Demos’ plans to democratise and

marginalise the monarchy.

The proposals for stripping the Queen of constitutional power and

requiring the monarch to be endorsed by referendum have, of course, no

official standing. But Demos’ founder, Geoff Mulgan, is a Downing Street

adviser and one of the authors of Demos’ monarchy paper advised Foreign

Secretary Robin Cook on the rebranding of Britain until ’Cool Britannia’

became good for more sniggers than Mr Cook himself.

It could be argued that the fate of ’Cool Britannia’ is a sign of


Everything that Demos touches soon turns to dust. So why bother about

their Royal Report? Simple: Tony Blair is dead keen to reform the

monarchy and will go for anything if he thinks it will work. If it

doesn’t, then ditch it, like ’Cool Britannia’ by denying parentage.

But the monarchy isn’t just symbolism. It is made up of real people with

real national roles, marinated in history and tradition. And you tamper

with the constitution at the nation’s peril. Mr Blair should know this

by now. He’s landed himself with two political crises - one in Scotland

because his daft ideas about devolution have come gift-wrapped for

Scottish Nationalists and the other, in the House of Lords, promises to

make guerrillas of our peers. Advisers worth their salt would be telling

the Prime Minister to curb Demos’ irresponsible enthusiasms before they

land him deeper in the fertiliser.

More important, they would be asking serious questions about


What do we want to achieve? Sadly, the way this Government goes about

its business convinces me that what it lacks is not advisers - they are

two a penny and worth as much - but real strategists with PR nous rather

than vacant slogans. I am in a position to say this. From the very

beginning, I have been asking Mr Blair precisely what kind of United

Kingdom he really, really wants.

From his rag bag of devolution measures, his flirtation with ’Cool

Britannia’ and his opportunist approach to Europe, it is clear that he

simply hasn’t a clue. Not even now, after 15 months in office, can he

articulate his objective. His approach to reform is, babbling, to chuck

everything up in the air and see how it lands. As every self-respecting

PR person knows, this is no way to run a railway, still less govern


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