To the AGM lunch of IPRN network members, held in the liveried splendour
of the Drapers’ Hall in the heart of the City.
The guest speaker was John Footman, Secretary of the Bank of England, or
‘keeper of secrets’ as he put it - a novel attribute for the man who
heads the press office.
He revealed that one job of the Secretary is faithfully to record the
minutes of official meetings - such as the regular fireside chats
between Governor and Chancellor. ‘And what we don’t record, we make up,’
he cheerfully added.
But the amiable Footman appeared to have a somewhat love/hate
relationship with his job, insisting that he was not and never had been
a PR man. ‘An invitation to address an international network of PR
professionals therefore puts me in roughly the same position as Jacques
Santer addressing the British beef industry,’ he declared.
Footman fondly reminisced about Bank PR policy in years gone by, when,
as one of his predecessors remarked, his job was to ‘keep the Bank out
of the press and the press out of the Bank’.
Well he managed to keep me out anyway. A prior engagement forced me to
forgo the pleasure of a tour of the Bank, including the vaults. Mindful
of his guests’ busy schedules, Footman assured the rest of the party
that they could duck out of the tour at any time ‘except during the gold
‘It’s deep underground and if you disappear down a corridor then you
will encounter all sorts of metal grilles, video cameras and chaps with
machine guns,’ he explained apologetically.
Presumably they were there in case anyone should to smuggle a press
release out of the press office.