Public Affairs: Soap box - Lionel Zetter, freelance public affairs consultant

Political communication is never a straightforward business - whether you are in government or in opposition.

For the official opposition, Catch 22 is invariably applicable. Nobody listens to you because they don't think you have a chance of winning, and you have no chance of winning if nobody is listening to you.

For the third party, the only time you hit the headlines is usually when your leader either develops an excessive thirst or a problem in the zipper department.

For the Government, the challenge is different. The problem is more about 'managing' the media than getting its attention. There are a host of policy announcements to be made, which can lead to congestion. That is why the news grid was invented. Over and above these planned announcements there are, of course, events. Whether they are economic crises, military engagements or street riots, they can suddenly hijack the news agenda. Focus has to switch from rolling out a planned launch to firefighting - in an almost literal sense.

That is why we set up Conservatives in Communications. As reported in PRWeek (12 August), this is an informal network of Tory members and supporters who work in PR, public affairs, marketing and advertising. We have offered our services to the party, in case it needs a sounding board, a second opinion, a fresh set of eyes or simply a spare pair of hands.

We are not in 'despair', as reported in The Independent, and nor is the party 'finished', as suggested by Peter Bingle.

It is, in fact, in good heart - and our job is to help to ensure it is also in good voice.

There is nothing sinister or secretive about our network. We are simply a group of professionals offering our services - as and if required - to the party we support. The clue is in the title: we are Conservatives, and we are in communications.

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