PROFILE: Peter Bingle, GPC - A hard sell for public affairs. Peter Bingle is more than confident he can bring GPC back up to scratch

Peter Bingle, the new managing director of public affairs firm GPC, spent his first year after university selling menswear in the West End for Dunn and Co. ’It taught me my selling skills. When a man and a woman come down the stairs, you get the man into the changing rooms quickly and you sell to the wife, because she’ll determine how much he buys,’ he recalls.

Peter Bingle, the new managing director of public affairs firm GPC,

spent his first year after university selling menswear in the West End

for Dunn and Co. ’It taught me my selling skills. When a man and a woman

come down the stairs, you get the man into the changing rooms quickly

and you sell to the wife, because she’ll determine how much he buys,’ he

recalls.



Bingle will need all his selling powers in his new job. Once seen as the

leading lobbying firm, GPC has suffered since Mike Craven left as MD at

the beginning of last year. The firm has lost roughly pounds 1 million

in fee income and several well-connected consultants.



Craven’s successor, John Dickie, was moved sideways after less than a

year, which included presiding over the agency’s ultimate humiliation as

the employer of Derek Draper during last summer’s eponymous ’Drapergate’

affair. And, with this catalogue of minor catastrophes, staff morale

plummeted.



Bingle claims to be aware of what he is up against - or perhaps he is

just starting his selling job already. He says: ’My challenge is to

firmly establish GPC as the best public affairs consultancy within two

years. The reality is that this is a superb consultancy. Things in the

past have happened and a line’s been drawn.’



The fact remains that GPC has lost most of its senior Labour consultants

in the past year, to the extent that industry observers say Bingle will

have to refocus the agency’s political credentials - it is strong on

Liberal Democrats, and Bingle himself is a former Conservative

councillor for Wandsworth. Press Complaints Commission director Guy

Black, who worked with him at Westminster Strategy, says Bingle is up to

this task: ’Peter’s one of the Conservative lobbyists who’s made a very

easy transition. I would hazard a guess that he’s rather better

connected on the Labour side than the Tory.’



Industry watchers also expect some of Bingle’s key clients to follow him

from The Communication Group, as they did when he left WS four years

ago. He is by all accounts a powerful, charismatic consultant - hence

the client loyalty. But his ability to carry staff with him is not so

certain. For all his rhetoric on group dynamics, ex-colleagues say

interpersonal skills are not Bingle’s strong suit.



Nor does he suffer foolish clients gladly - arguably a key skill for any

good consultant.



The roots of this may lie in Bingle’s own rise from working class south

London boy to well-to-do owner of a Pimlico townhouse crawling with

children’s toys and rich, pastel furnishings. His self-made-man

philosophy is hard-line Darwin: ’I can remember my first day at school

when they said: ’You’re the elite of the Catholic community in London

and if you’re not prepared to work hard, there’s no place for you.’ It

was tough and I loved it and it gave me a chance to get to university,’

he enthuses, adding: ’That’s why I’m a Tory.’



It is perhaps no surprise that this classic Thatcherite pioneered one of

the Iron Lady’s most controversial, though successful, local government

policies - the sale of council housing stock. As head of Wandsworth’s

property sales committee he was investigated ’about six or seven times’

by auditors searching for evidence of selling council homes for

electoral purposes. ’I’m very proud of that scheme. Its whole purpose

was to give working-class people the chance to own their homes. That’s a

good thing,’ he says with conviction.



Ten years on from having ’retired (from local government) at 30’ Bingle

is going to spend the next few weeks canvassing GPC staff and clients as

a first move to recapturing the agency’s number one spot, before coming

to any decisions. But this jovial bon viveur, who likes good wine and

relaxes to the music of Bruckner, is already clear on one thing: he

wants to inject some camaraderie into GPC. ’I’ve always encouraged

awaydays for the client and consultancy team to get to know each other,

maybe even get a little bit drunk. At the end, they think as one group.

To me, consultancy is fun. You’ve got to enjoy walking through the

door.’ Staff at GPC may breathe a sigh of relief.



HIGHLIGHTS



1988: Account executive Westminster Strategy



1995: Managing director, TCG political division



1999: Managing director, GPC.



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