Let’s start with a modern PR conundrum: what do Piers Morgan, the
wayward editor of the Mirror, Andrew Marr, the BBC’s Blairite new
political editor, and John Grieve, the Metropolitan Police’s racial task
force director, have in common? Or put another way, what first rule of
PR do they offend? The answer is of course credibility.
And before anyone says I am a fine one to talk, let me make it clear
that before I was engaged to work for them I had not met, still less
known, Tory Aubrey Jones, chairman of the Prices and Incomes Board;
Labour ministers Barbara Castle, Eric Varley and Tony Benn; or Tory
ministers Robert Carr, Lord Carrington or Margaret Thatcher. The only
exception was Maurice Macmillan, Secretary of State for Employment 1972
to 1973, whose meetings I had covered as a constituent of his in
Halifax. So far as that little lot were concerned, I had a Labour past
but a professional presence.
So what about our prize trio? It may surprise you, but I regard Andrew
Marr as the least compromised. I have never known a Government of any
political hue which was happy with BBC coverage. I can confidently
predict that Mr Marr will cause angst and breast beating in Labour and
Tory No 10 alike and elsewhere in Government. But the fact remains he is
compromised by his connections, the easing out of the present incumbent,
Robin Oakley before the next election and by his ultimate boss, BBC
director general, Greg Dyke who was a substantial contributor to the
Labour Party before his appointment. Mr Marr’s road to a reputation for
objectivity is strewn with boulders.
So long as Mr Morgan remains as editor after the Press Complaints
Commission’s condemnation of him for breaches of its code over share
tipping and dealing and the culture he permitted to develop in his City
Slickers’ column, the Mirror will never credibly be able to expose
another case of sleaze.
Everybody will say: ’Look who’s talking! Ye Gods, what hypocrisy!’ As
for John Grieve, who confessed to being racist, words fail me. So let
the Mail’s Andrew Alexander pass verdict on his article in the
Telegraph: ’One of the most loathsome, odious, cringing, whining
exercises in self-abasement it has ever been my misfortune to read’.
Mr Grieve says ’passive non-racism is no longer acceptable’. In other
words, the man appointed to root out racism from the Met won’t tolerate
an open mind which treats people as you find them. That, frankly, is
political correctness gone stark, staring bonkers. In PR terms, Mr
Grieve is no longer credible. He should go. So should Mr Morgan. And
many will say Mr Marr should never have been appointed. Just as justice
has to be seen to be done as well as done, it has to look right as well
as be right.