NEWS: Greer calls in the crisis management experts

Ian Greer Associates has called in crisis media specialist John Stonborough to handle the press barrage that has followed its libel trial climb-down in the ‘cash for questions’ affair.

Ian Greer Associates has called in crisis media specialist John

Stonborough to handle the press barrage that has followed its libel

trial climb-down in the ‘cash for questions’ affair.



Stonborough was originally hired by IGA, for one month, a fortnight ago

to handle media relations during the planned court case. However, when

the case was abandoned on Monday night, Stonborough’s brief switched to

handling the resulting furore.



Stonborough, who estimates that IGA received several hundred related

calls a day earlier this week, said his assignment was ‘a very normal

media-type problem where the orthodox rules still apply’.



‘I think our strategy, of being open and responsive to the media, is

working. We have got absolutely nothing to hide,’ he said.



Both Greer and his erstwhile co-plaintiff, the former Tory minister Neil

Hamilton MP, are still vigorously protesting their innocence despite

further allegations in the Guardian this week.



However, Stonbrough said he had advised Ian Greer against appearing on

Tuesday’s Newsnight programme with Hamilton and Guardian editor Alan

Rusbridger, adding: ‘We are not in the business of adding to the media

circus.’



Andrew Gifford, chairman of the Association of Professional Political

Consultants, said a discussion on whether the body should further

investigate the affair was likely to be a major topic at its next

meeting.



But in any case IGA’s membership of the two-year-old association, which

bans financial links with MPs, was unlikely to be called into question,

according to Gifford. He said this was because the allegations concerned

events prior to the formation of the APPC and its rules.



This week’s events could herald the first public hearing of a case by

the Commons Privileges and Standards Committee, which was established

following the Nolan report into standards in public life.



The committee will decide whether to act on receiving a report from Sir

Gordon Downey, the Parliamentary ombudsman. Several commentators have

called for an extension of Sir Gordon’s powers this week: he is

currently able to initiate inquiries, after receiving complaints from

Members of Parliament and the public, but cannot call for papers or

people.



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