Diary: C4 expose reveals few dirty tricks

PR consultants were surely a tad disappointed by Channel 4's Dispatches programme on Monday, Undercover in New Labour.

The reporter seemed to relish, for example, the fact that during the election battle Labour produced 'templates' for local activists to use when sending letters to papers - and that PROs buoyed up numbers (and negated flak) at Blair-Brown photocalls.

Naughty? Maybe, but hardly a massive shock - there are surely few PR consultants out there who have never indulged in similar behaviour for their clients.

Perhaps most embarrassingly for Labour's media operation (and the PR profession more generally), was a press officer asking C4's crew who they were before saying: 'Can I have a quick conversation with you? Sorry, if you want to interview anyone you need to ask me first... Sorry, I'm not very helpful.' But PRWeek was left scratching its head as to what tricks the programme revealed that had not already been severely (and publicly) criticised by the national hacks who were apparently consistently denied access to Labour events.

Surely the abiding memory was the clever editing that juxtaposed press office staff closely monitoring the media with footage of the PM saying: 'We have got to get over worrying about what is... on the news and actually get down to the grass roots and talk to the people.'

The show, then, not so much exposed outrageous PR trickery but merely provided further evidence of the importance politicians continue to place on media coverage, despite what they publicly espouse.

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