So, it’s Lord Gummer then. It was only a question of time, I suppose,
but he deserves full marks anyway.
It’s excellent news for the PR business - even prompting the Independent
to conclude that ‘PR people, like it or not, are now significant
players’ - but dismal timing for the Tories. Labour lost no time in
dubbing him ‘Lord of the lies’ because of his involvement in the ‘New
Labour, New Danger’ campaign. It’s all good knockabout stuff, which will
soon blow itself out. But it indicates that Gummer has now been shoved
directly into the political spotlight for the first time.
He’ll cope. Lord G modestly paints himself as the dimmer of the Gummer
brothers but has always appeared the smarter of the two in both
shrewdness and sartorial style. Indeed, it is hard to imagine him doing
anything which has not been meticulously planned.
He has his mild eccentricities: the slippers and cardigan in the office;
the triple-stacked breakfast meetings in the Connaught; and the
preternaturally dapper dress sense. But he has rarely, if ever, put a
foot wrong in his public or private life - astutely investing his time
in precisely the right mixture of business sup-remacy, political work,
and public services.
In PR, his chief achievement has been the creation of the world’s
largest independent consultancy group. In doing so, he almost
singlehandedly proved that PR companies can be run as proper, stable
businesses. During the recession, when Shandwick’s finances looked
shaky, he took the tough decisions necessary to get it back on track.
And even in the headiest of boom times he stuck religiously to the
sector he knew. There were never any madcap schemes for Shandwick to buy
the Midland Bank.
But his success in business tends to overshadow the fact that he’s also
actually been pretty good at PR along the way. And he has always been at
the forefront of debate about evaluation and training, and in driving up
Nowadays he is perennially expected to ease himself out of running
Shandwick. But don’t hold your breath. Not long ago I had a bleary-eyed
(me obviously, not him) breakfast with him. He was even more animated
than usual, glinting with excitement about the changes that the
technological revolution would mean for consumers, the media, and
Shandwick. It was certainly not the attitude of a man who had finished
with the PR business.
I can’t imagine him doing anything remotely so vulgar as using his
peerage as a marketing tool. But amusingly (or was it foresight?), he
named his company after the Scottish town in which he was brought up. So
he could choose to be known simply as Lord Gummer of Shandwick. Very
Sir Bernard Ingham is on holiday