NEWS: The Scott inquiry has been a PR fiasco from start to finish

The volcanic eruption is wonderful to behold. The sheer apoplexy of the conspiracy theorists who infest our so-called quality newspapers. The utter chagrin of Opposition parties who had assembled for a Ministerial hanging. And not least the grim frustration of Labour’s Robin Cook, the self-appointed executioner who found neither scaffold nor convicts.

The volcanic eruption is wonderful to behold. The sheer apoplexy of the

conspiracy theorists who infest our so-called quality newspapers. The

utter chagrin of Opposition parties who had assembled for a Ministerial

hanging. And not least the grim frustration of Labour’s Robin Cook, the

self-appointed executioner who found neither scaffold nor convicts.



As one who has ridiculed from the outset the whole silly Scott

investigation into our trade with Iraq, I would be beside myself with

mirth if I could overlook the almost complete disaster it represents for

responsible PR.



First, take the Government. Scott is an example of its failure to face

up to issues as they arise. It temporised with an inquiry. The result is

that for 39 months Ministers, officials and the system have had to

endure a public witch hunt in which truth was the first casualty.



The media labelled it the arms-for-Iraq inquiry, even though they knew

the Government had not licensed lethal arms or munitions exports to Iraq

or Iran since 1980. They also perpetuated the lie that Ministers had

deprived innocent men of the evidence to clear themselves by signing

‘gagging orders’ which did not order or gag. At least Scott dismissed

that viciousness.



Then there is High Court judge Sir Richard Rashleigh Folliott Scott.

Because of his combative and prosecutorial approach, he failed to carry

the confidence of those investigated. Moreover the leaks (by others) of

his drafts built up expectations in a bloodthirsty media which were not

realised. All together I believe he has done the judiciary no good at

all.



His report is also a travesty of PR. He was clearly seduced by detail,

producing a mindbendingly boring and lengthy 2,000-page report without

any summary of his conclusions. He then proceeded to break every other

rule in the PR lexicon at a press conference which said more for his

vanity than his judgement since he had next to nothing to offer other

than an outline of the structure of his report.



The Opposition, and not least the extremely nasty Mr Cook, have been

made to look as foolish and as blood-lustful as the media. Why? Because

we have got it into our heads that Ministers, officials and governments

are up to no good. In fact, they are daily trying to reconcile a mass of

conflicting concerns including the national interest, international

obligations, and competitive trade.



Which brings me to the ultimate public relations failure: Scott’s

fuelling of conspiracy theory rather than the rehabilitation of

Government and politics in the eyes of the people. After 23 years in

Whitehall, I despair.



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