Last week, as a non-executive UK director, I was in Chicago for the
25th anniversary of the arrival of McDonald’s in Britain. The board,
franchisees and store managers celebrated the impending opening of the
1,000th restaurant in Britain and planned the doubling at least of the
company’s stake in this country, now measured in millions of customers
daily and well over pounds 1 billion in investment.
It all started when Britain was the sick man of Europe. It survived a
crisis over its basic raw material - beef. It has been built up in the
teeth - or not, as the case may be - of hypocritical social snobs, not
to mention those wallowing in anti-American prejudice, But it is now a
British-led jewel in the McDonald Corporation’s golden arches which, at
the last count, were to be found in 117 countries. It has a lot to shout
about - and not least its social contribution by giving around 40,000
youngsters a year their first work experience in a disciplined
Most of you will be blissfully unaware of this milestone. Speaking as a
PRO, I can’t say that I’m bothered. I believe McDonald’s is dead right
to let performance speak for itself - or, more accurately, as things
turned out in Chicago, to make sure that by attention to the details of
quality, service, cleanliness, value and staff, it continues its steady
It will only do that if it keeps its customers smiling.
This is, of course, an old-fashioned view in an ever-spinning world.
Indeed, I am inclined to offer a new first law of public relations: the
greater the spin, the less the achievement; the greater the achievement,
the less the resort to rotational medicine (of which Rhodri Morgan MP
once accused me of being a practitioner before I put him right). I am
emboldened to do so because I found on my return that, even before its
confirmation in office, the new European Commission is threatening to
recruit at least 100 spin doctors in a Blair-style, centralised effort
to improve its image.
This proves conclusively that the Bourbons, who learned nothing and
forgot nothing, are alive and well and living in Brussels. All the spin
doctors in God’s creation can do nothing for the EU when the putative
new commission contains a number from the last era who were forced out
for failing to tackle fraud and incompetence; when it clearly lacks the
will to conquer sleaze; when so many questions hang over the behaviour
of commissioners elect; when the EU is useless in an international
crisis - witness the Gulf, the Balkans and East Timor - and when it
seeks to interfere in the minutiae of the lives of 400 million people
and subjugate them to the dictats of a superstate.
The EU should take a tip from McDonald’s: it’s the product, not the
spin, that counts.