Race for mayor hots up as comms teams battle

The comms teams behind mayoral rivals Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson are at loggerheads over the media tactics employed by the Johnson camp.

Boris: ‘a story a day’
Boris: ‘a story a day’

Johnson's campaign strategy is being masterminded by Australian election guru Lynton Crosby, but the Tory candidate has also been usi­ng agency support for day-to-day media relations work.

InHouse PR, the agency set up by two former Conservative Central Office staffers, has been ‘consistently mega-busy' in the run up to the election, according to co-founder Katie Perrior.

She said that Johnson emp­loys a head of research, Alex Crowley, to ‘churn out a substantial story a day'. Perrior explained: ‘With the 24-hour news cycle we have to give the media something or people will make things up.'

This week, for example, InHouse PR told the Daily Mail that Livingstone had a ‘70-strong army' of PROs, with another 105 press officers on call for transport and economic issues.
The story has provoked an angry reaction from the Livingstone camp. The current mayor's chief press officer Victoria Collins called the claims ‘an example of Johnson's complete incompetence'.

She said: ‘The number of press officers working for the Mayor is 16 - a fraction of the number claimed by the Conservatives. The Tories get to their absurd figure by lumping together everyone working in City Hall and agencies like Transport for London and the London
Development Agency.'

Collins added: ‘Those stories don't win votes. We don't sit there and have a resear­cher making up a story a day when there is nothing else. Ken knows what the issues are and what we need to talk to the media about. We do not make up stories about Boris' PR team.'

But Perrior insisted: ‘Our researchers are first rate and the stories are good and
concrete.' She added that it was valid to refer to all of the PROs at City Hall as ‘on several occasions they have waded into rows about policy that are election issues'.

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